Mistakes in a New Language

“They are not dead who live in lives they leave behind; in those whom they have blessed, they live a life again…” Hugh Robert Orr

I’ll make it clear, there is no way to become fluent in a language without making many huge mistakes. A friend in Brazil recalls my version of Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son returning home when the Father prepared a feast that included the fatted calf. My version had the father serve up a fatted bug. There are many bugs in Brazil and a few that are big and fat though hardly good for a feast.

If you want to ever speak another language you must be at ease with making mistakes– many of them. So what happens when you make a mistake? You may be red-faced but it is so important to remember you are not likely to make the same mistake twice. The mistake precedes the learning and without the mistakes there will be little learning.

Learning the language of any profession is crucial to being successful in it. No doubt that is the reason I’ll never get beyond just using e-mail on my computer. More than a few years ago I recall the prof who taught pastoral care and counselling at Queens U. saying that one purpose of the course was to learn the language of spiritual and psychological healing.

Don’t despise the funny stories that flow from the mistakes. Rather, collect them for they are the history of becoming proficient in a language. Those mistakes will only happen as you face the varied circumstances of life. So don’t retreat but head into life’s experiences knowing the school of hard knocks is totalling up your learning with its rewards.

Anyone who begins to be interested in the Christian way may be put off by the language they encounter in the Christian church. That person may have no idea what the sermon is about or the hymns and testimonies that speak of spiritual experiences with God. Those long in the tooth or experienced in the Bible have over the years learned the language of the Christian Faith. No doubt the seeker encounters confusion and mistaken views till finally the salvation story makes sense. Then of course there are the mistakes and failures in Christian conduct during the learning process. But never give up. Cherish your story even when it includes mistakes.

Now something to help you whether you are learning a new language of another country or that of a particular profession. Prepare yourself for the adventures you will face. Study for the encounters you will face. As for Portuguese, I still keep handy a little dictionary that helps me go from Portuguese to English and the other direction as well. I carried that booklet on every one of our trips to Brazil for any language is a learning experience.

Now, if you wish to find your way in the Christian Way, let me recommend you refer to the Bible each day beginning your reading with the Gospel of Mark. You might add a daily reading from the Daily Bread or better yet in the foreign language you are learning. I read every day from the Pão Diário so I’m killing two birds with one stone.

It is important that you don’t get bogged down in your new language. Have fun with it. Do as well as you can but let the process cure your perfectionism. That goes for any language no matter what you are learning or experiencing.


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