Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jack of all trades, and a master of none?

I love the idea of learning new languages. When living abroad in the early 90's, I had the opportunity to get a decent grip on Russian. I also took the time at one point to learn some very basic German vocabulary, and the numbers served me well a few times in a pinch. I studied French in school, but know very little, and about six years ago I took a Spanish class. When in Israel I learned to say some please and thank you kinds of words in Arabic and Modern Hebrew, but remember very few,--shukran you very much. In college I had to learn to read New Testament Greek, and for my master's paper I toiled/toyed with Old Testament Hebrew very little.

This fall Shelly and I are going to have the opportunity to spend some time in Italy. And so now we are both studying a bit of "get you around" Italian. Molto bene!

It's funny how all of these languages kind of take up residence in different places of your brain. Sure, sometimes I'll get my languages mixed, like coming up with a Russian word in an attempted Spanish sentence. But for the most part, if you are thinking in a language--and around it for a few days--your brain engages that particular gear for the time of need.

Just in case you are wondering, if my survival depended on my ability to speak any of the above languages, I'd get skinny pretty quickly. I can still--after 16 years--speak a bit of Russian. And I can come up with the right words here and there in a few others. But really, for all the passion I've placed upon learning to communicate with the people I visit, I have little to show. I am a jack of many languages, but a master of one--and that is if you count my native English! (Some readers may wonder about that now and then.)

What is your one thing? What are you passionate about? When the last words are spoken at your memorial, what will be their theme? I want to try and keep my stubborn self focused on the ways of Jesus. I want to speak him to my world fluently. And I want that place in my brain to be engaged when someone needs him.

In Philippians Paul said: "This one thing I do..." I want that to be true of me too.


Zee said...

first, i love the new design - haven't been here for quite some time...

secondly, this blog post made me grin :) i am right there with you, trying to squeeze as many languages as possible into this brain of mine.

so far my list is pretty small... i know Russian / Ukrainian / English decently; Spanish and German - bits and pieces - can understand a lot, yet cannot really speak much (although when I attempt to speak Ukrainian, sometimes all my mind gives me is Spanish)... I can read Old Hebrew (thanks to Joe Coleson who is an amazing teacher and mom who took me along to Moscow when she needed to take a Hebrew class for NTS)... I used to know bits and pieces of Armenian (since i went there for a couple of weeks three years in a row), but I forgot most of it now...

Ah, Greek - I sooooo want to learn it. I can read it (quite easy when you know Russian), but I have no idea about the grammar and pronunciation... Maybe mom will need another class for NTS, or maybe I'll get a chance to study it at EuNC... we'll see :)

David said...

The difference with you Zee, is that you have mastered two. Your English is amazing.

Zee said...

i had good teachers ;)