Notice that in this video I first attempted to communicate with Dovie using English. It seems he is either ignoring me or simply does not care. But notice how quickly he does respond when I speak his language!
It turns out that even in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania it is beneficial to know more than the English language; and I'm not just talking about learning to speak Dove-ese. I recall a moment in which I wished that I had seriously invested the time and energy to learn a second language.
I have a very outgoing personality and so it is natural for me to initiate conversations with others. I was quickly thrown for a loop when I unknowingly introduced myself to a person who was deaf. I said hello and he waved back. He made a gesture to let me know that he could not hear.
I did take a crash course in ASL (American Sign Language) a few years back and figured that in this moment maybe I'd be able to use that prior knowledge to fumble through a conversation using ASL. The only thing I was effectively able to sign was "hi." I was not able to decipher any more than a few scattered words from his signing. Thinking on my feet, I quickly took a notebook and a pen out of my backpack and then he and I were able to share some thoughts and a brief conversation through writing.
It got me thinking, is it worth me investing the time to sharpen my ASL skills?
For that matter, how important is it to me to be able to effectively communicate God's love to others, and to inspire others to live a life that is rooted in relationship with God and given in love and service to others?
For me it is pretty darn important! How important is it to you?
It seems to me that learning to speak new languages provides us with opportunities to invest in the lives of even more people for the sake of sharing God's love whether we are talking about ASL, Spanish, German, French, Chinese, or another world language. Keep in mind that sometimes sharing God's love with words is about sharing some truth about God's love and sometimes its simply about letting someone know that they are loved and appreciated by you. You may be the most profound expression of love that another person has ever experienced; consider the importance then, of learning their language.
Then again, even within the English language there are words and phrases that are unique in different generational and cultural contexts! Sometimes its challenging enough to be a 32 year old person learning to speak the language of the generation that is now 60-80 years old and at the same time learning to speak the language of the generation that is 15-20 years old!
It is important to learn their language (whoever "they" may be) since part of what it means to follow the example of Jesus (my example for what it means for me to live the best life possible) is to be able to effectively communicate with people who are sometimes very different.
If I speak my language to them the message will never get across.
If I invest the time and energy to learn their language and then speak their language good things will happen; and community can be built upon a foundation of non-judgment and mutual encouragement as each party seeks to live the best life possible.