Theology & Worldview

Necessity of Missionaries Learning their Host Country’s Language

Often when moving overseas, missionaries come face to face with a new culture, including, but not limited to a new language. Some missionaries may feel reluctant to learn a new language because it requires months to years of strenuous efforts. However, if they refuse to study the host country’s language, this will create consequential barriers. Therefore, understanding the language of a missionary’s destination is essential to forming substantial relationships and exhibiting respect. 

In order to build meaningful friendships that can lead to sharing the gospel, missionaries should eagerly study the native language of the country they plan on moving to. Learning the basic sayings of a language may help with getting around a town or ordering food, but simple phrases alone fail to form strong bonds between missionaries and the country’s people. When missionaries become fluent in the local language, they can form genuine friendships, which allow missionaries to preach about Jesus and Bible. Furthermore, with the language barrier broken, missionaries can directly answer difficult questions about hard or complex topics like pain or death. Fluency in the native language causes personal relationships to blossom and enables missionaries and natives alike to take part in important conversations about the gospel.

Missionaries also demonstrate a degree of respect for their host country and its culture when they learn its language. When going to a new country it’s important to maintain a mindset of humility and openness. In order to transform this mindset into action, missionaries should learn the native language. Adapting to the local culture in this way demonstrates to the native culture demonstrates that a missionary understands that they are stepping out of their home and into someone else’s. Indeed, taking this step toward cultural integration establishes a solid foundation of respect between a host country’s people and a visiting missionary. 

In Colossians 4:5-6, Paul explains how Christians should have an air of humility when talking and interacting with non-Christians. In this passage, he calls us to, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (NIV). Thus Christians, and especially missionaries, are instructed in the Bible to put full effort into creating relationships with non-Christians with grace and understanding. To “make the most of every opportunity” and “answer everyone,” missionaries must learn the native language of their new host country. Breaking the language barrier as a missionary allows for deep connections and Christ-centered opportunities to be fulfilled.

Unfortunately, this will be the last article I get to write for clay. And this article will be last missions article that clay will ever publish. clay will always be the best online magazine, and it will live on in my heart forever. I’ll never forget how incredible every article and word published on clay was. Hopefully, some of you will miss my articles and I will miss you equally. I hope you look back fondly clay and remember how my articles were always your favorite. I know this goodbye may feel sudden, heart-wrenching, and certainly unbearable. It might even leave you feeling gutted and miserable. I’m grateful I can rest in the knowledge that you adored my articles while they lasted.
Goodbye forever,
Caroline Housworth

 

 

Works Cited

Service, M. (2017, October 06). Celebrating the european day of languages. Retrieved March 26, 2022, from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/09/25/celebrating-the-european-day-of-languages/

2 Comments

  1. Amazing article! I hope you are on the next year of clay

  2. Cool article topic! I like your point about humility in language/cultural learning.