Culture Shock!!! Part 2: Language Barrier

Culture Shock!!! Part 2: Language Barrier

So here is part 2 of an ongoing series about Culture Shock!!! In this particular entry, I would like to address the Language Barrier issue.

The Language spoken in Slovakia is Slovak. During my first 3 weeks in country I spend 2 weeks in the village of Velky Slavkov studying Slovak. I learned a lot about conjugating verbs and declining nouns (which is very difficult if you’ve never done it before.) The course was very fast passed and I thought that I would be able to pick-up enough to get by. This was not the case. I found when I arrived in my village that I was back to square one. Simple phrases that I thought I’d be able to understand or speak we’re difficult.

Much of learning a language is based on context. I am learning new words everyday and forgetting them just as fast. It is a lot to absorb and it takes real effort and practice to get the basics. With a new language I am finding that I do more listening than talking. I can usually pick-up a small fraction of a conversation based on body language and expression. Being is this context my language skills are reduced to that of a child. I feel like I should be understanding some of the simplest things. It is difficult to have in-depth conversations, which is frustrating for me. I am meeting many members of the village from Children to Older Adults who are fascinating. I only wish every-time I see them that I could understand and communicate with them better.

One of the most difficult things for me to deal in regards to the language barrier is participation in Church. I am very fond of liturgy and music, I find the many words and phrases help me to understand and worship God. It is difficult to participate in something such as worship without really knowing what is being said or what I am singing. I often zone out because paying attention when someone is speaking and you have no idea what they are saying is difficult. (The average Slovak 2 hour church service is daunting enough). I have this intense desire to understand but, there is no magic pill or formula to solve the problem. Only time and study will help.

I look at this difficulty as a challenge and opportunity to expand my faith. I can only imagine what it was like for the early church trying to assemble a fledgling faith in a time and area when they were vast amounts of languages and cultures. The thing that gives me hope is that despite this challenge God send his spirit to help break the barrier. We read in the very first part of Acts how the holy spirit descended upon the apostles so they could speak in many languages. I am confident that despite my lack of Slovak language skills God will give me his grace, patience and understanding to eventually understand share the Good News.

So ends Part 2…Check back later for Part 3

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