Well, as you know, our first year in Russia is coming to an end. The end of this period of time also means that the end of our first year of language lessons has come. One of my friends asked me if I felt confident now in my Russian. Without a second thought I answered, “No.” Now, I have learned a lot of Russian. I am definitely much better at it than when we arrived and I could barely remember the letters in the alphabet (which, by the way is probably the easiest NOT the hardest part of learning Russian, contrary to what you might think).
I’ve definitely had my ups and downs in language learning. Thomas has been extremely kind in helping me keep perspective, as has my wonderful and dedicated teacher Ludmilla Zaharovna. Sometimes though, I think that this year of language learning has taught me more about myself than about the Russian language.
I sometimes have this twisted idea of what holiness is and think that I’m already supposed to be perfect, which means that if I make a mistake, a terrible tragedy has occurred. Maybe I should explain that a little bit more before I’m burned at the stake for heresy. I know that I am to live like Christ, to reflect His image. The problem comes because I forget that I’m not yet perfect and think that I can be perfect all on my own. Needless to say this idea can lead to some serious sinfulness in all kinds of ways. It can also lead to depression when I don’t think that I’m being perfect, which can then also lead to sinfulness in still more ways.
God has used my language learning to help “beat it into my head” that I’m not perfect. I can’t do this on my own. I make mistakes. I’m not talking about “being ok with” sin, I’m talking about continuing to see myself as God sees me: A sinner saved by grace who can live in a way that honors Him only by grace. This is still a work in progress for sure! (just ask Thomas) 🙂
Connected with this area of growth in language learning is another: I can’t take everything personally. See, since “I’m perfect” then if someone corrects me or I hurt someone or I make a big mistake, then it’s kind of earth-shattering to the incorrect view that I have of myself. Well, I don’t know a single person who can learn a second language and not make mistakes, and that includes me. Actually, who doesn’t make mistakes in their first language?! So, language learning has helped me realize that needing correction on some things doesn’t mean that someone is attacking my character–that person is probably trying to help me. And when I make a mistake and a stranger starts yelling at me with words that I haven’t learned yet (and maybe don’t need to learn), then I have to let it go and not stew over it for days and days and think about what a terrible job I’m doing on learning this incredibly difficult language.
So overall, I’d say the 2 biggest things that God has taught me through language learning are humility and being more relaxed (again not relaxed in my attitude toward sin, but relaxed in the sense of not constantly worrying about what people are thinking of me). And just as learning a 2nd language really takes a lifetime, I’m sure that God will keep teaching me about these 2 things for the rest of my lifetime. Praise Him!