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Learning Another Language
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By Shawn Boonstra

If you know you'll be traveling overseas or working with an immigrant community, it really pays to invest in learning a few conversational basics in their language - even if many people in the community happen to speak English. (It'll help you bond.) No gift for learning languages? I completely understand; I took nearly ten years of conversational French and still can't really speak it. It wasn't until I spent a little time learning rudimentary Greek and Latin in college that foreign languages started making sense to me. 


But who's got time to go back to college? Besides, I'm not looking to become fluent in every language I brush up against; there are too many languages and not enough time for that to be realistic. I do want to pick up enough to get a sense for what people are saying, however, and enough to demonstrate a willingness to cross bridges into other cultures. If I'm using a translator for preaching, I'm also keen to know if the translation is following the sermon accurately, and I like to be able to detect potential translational difficulties in a Bible text before I get up to speak (such as the use of "Sunday" in place of "the Lord's Day" in Revelation 1:10, or similar issues.)

I tried Rosetta Stone with fairly good results, but nothing has been quite as effective as the Pimsleur courses readily available through iTunes. It's remarkably fast.  Pimsleur lives up to its promise that you'll be speaking the language (although clearly not fluently) in ten days. It requires only 30 minutes a day of wearing a pair of headphones - in fact, the system discourages studying any longer than that each day. They promise that you will retain most of what you've learned, and they're right. I was astonished on the second day - and each succeeding day - at how effortlessly I could recall and use the material I'd learned the day before. (In fact, if I were a conspiracy buff, I'd be tempted to say I'd been exposed to some sort of CIA mind control. Really, the recall was that uncanny.)

Now for full disclosure: so far, I've only studied one language with Pimsleur (I've used other methods for other languages), and that was a language to which I'd had some previous exposure. To be sure my assessment was accurate, I slapped a pair of headphones on each of my kids, and sure enough, they had the same experience.  They picked it up in days.

The course is fairly inexpensive; you can achieve your purposes for well under $100 - in fact, you can buy sets of five lessons for $23.95 each, which will provide you with an inexpensive way to determine whether or not it's a worthwhile investment for your evangelistic program.