Monday, October 7, 2013

training // what we're walking away with, pt. 1

The first half of our training at Mission Training International is complete, and for two weeks we've been learning about language... but we haven't been learning Spanish or even about Spanish. Wait, what?! After we say that, most people are completely confused as to why we are here and why we're even doing this. People want to say, "Why can't you just go right into Spanish school? Wouldn't that be faster?".

Well, at first we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We knew that this training had received a lot of praise from past missionaries, and that it was required of us by our mission organization. But, we also knew that there must be good reason that GCM, along with numerous other organizations, require that their missionaries attend. AND there had to be good reason that each training session was filling up at least six months in advance. We were definitely very curious!

We came to learn a lot about language over these two weeks that we had never even thought about concentrating on. We first got a huge overview of phonetics -- we learned about how we produce sounds and how to use mouth position, tongue placement, vocals (or the absent of), etc. to make a myriad of different sounds that are found in languages all over the world. We definitely broke open the box of 44 sounds that we typically use in the English language. We even learned things like that we only use low "l" sounds in English, but in Spanish, there is only high "l" sounds. If we tried to learn Spanish with only the sounds that are comfortable to us, that we are used to using, we would be literally hurting Spanish speakers ears! Our Spanish accents would be so far what it should be that they may even be unrecognizable to a native speaker. We are so thankful for being taught to make different sounds, and even taught a language of how to explain them, instead of blindly trying to figure out how to produce them later on in our Spanish learning.

Our training classroom at MTI. 

The second portion of our language training involved us being provided with tools of how to pick up on language, make what we are learning applicable to our real lives (for example, not learning a list of verbs all at once, but learning verbs in contextual phrases that we would actually use!), and how to make language learning our own responsibility, instead of simply relying on a teacher to do all of the work for us. Through this training, we have developed a plan, complete with very specific and practical activities & ideas of how to go about our language learning as part of our daily lives, incorporating it into everything that we do. The focus of these techniques is truly to consistently draw the language IN in multi-sensory and multi-entry ways. Sometimes we "do" to learn and remember, sometimes we associate, sometimes we speak, sometimes we just listen. It's awesome!

We had the great opportunity to practice a number of the learning activities with language tutors of various languages. Now, before you get the urge to ask, let us explain that we were not able to practice in Spanish specifically because it is practically impossible that they could find tutors for every target language of each missionary here at training! So we all got to try our hands at the languages of our helpers that are at MTI: Chinese (Mandarin), Bulgarian, Hindi, Russian or French. Lesley really felt like she picked up Hindi really quickly and Jamey had fun with his group learning Bulgarian! We also just felt like the activities really came off the page and into "life" by getting to practice them together as a small team. They are extremely effective and it is very encouraging to us to have these!

Lesley's Hindi language tutor. 
During this time of exploring language learning techniques, we have also been implementing weekly times of "Growth Groups" (small, intimate groups of about 4-5 people of the same gender) for smaller community & accountability, weekly times of personal coaching with previous missionaries, daily times of quiet personal reflection time (completely unplugged), and daily times of bringing our joys & thanksgivings to God. It has been really wonderful to work these new specific & intentional times into our lives as things we hope to continue doing even after we leave here.

Could you ask for a more beautiful homework spot?!!

Our weekends are times of free time, rest and sabbath.... and lots of homework to prepare for the upcoming week. :) The first weekend that we were here, we decided to just jump right in and get into the amazing amount of beautiful nature that is available to us here in breathtaking Colorado. We visited the U.S. Air Force Academy and went on a hike just behind it. Unfortunately, the intensity level of the hike was a bit more than we had expected and than had been explained to us. We still really enjoyed it, but it was really difficult because we were still getting used to the higher elevation here and it was REALLY steep both up the mountain and coming down. We had to be very careful the whole way, and Jamey often had to help short-legged, short-armed Lesley on the practically all-fours rock climbing we had to do! :)

Our Hike at Eagle Peak! Note the "mountain lions are a real danger here" sign. There was an eight step system on what to do if you encountered one. That's kind of a lot to remember if/when you're scared out of your mind.
But, no matter how difficult the hike might have been for our first week here, we really enjoyed getting to spend time with the group that went with us (including a 3 year old in a hiking backpack and an amazing 6 year old climber!) and of course enjoyed the view. You can enjoy it, too, below:

The view at the top of the mountain from both sides. :)
We've completely loved Colorado, MTI, and all of the amazing people. We've been able to have completely new experiences... including our first October 3rd snow!

Our October 3rd snow dusting :) It was like a high of 45 that day. 
Please be praying for us as we enter the second, and much more emotional, portion of our training here at MTI. For the next two weeks we are going to be exploring our own personal lives, as well as how to transition into cross-cultural living.

No comments:

Post a Comment