I was chatting with one of the newer missionaries the past week. He wanted to share a spiritual experience. He told me that he didn’t think that he had enough words in Spanish to be able to communicate it well. And so, we switched to English. Sometimes it is nice to have that option.
I told another one of the missionaries that I am very jealous of how quickly the missionaries learn the language. He said not to worry. They would run ahead, but they would come back and help me. For me, it was a beautiful spirit-filled experience.
It is not only the English speaking missionaries that are having a new language experience. Although a few missionaries come into the mission bi-lingual (in fact, we even have a few that speak several languages) most are somewhere in the process of learning a second language because the admonition in Preach My Gospel.
I personally feel like my brain has a Spanish channel and an English channel. Albeit, the Spanish channel is tan caotico. Sometimes, I will inadvertently say something in English when I meant to say it in Spanish. It is like the Spanish channel has just gone offline. Surprisingly, the opposite has also happened. I was downtown Buenos Aires sitting next to a woman that turned to me and said something. I instinctively replied in Spanish that I didn’t yet speak the language very well. She then told me in a very British accent that she had spoken to me in English!
Many of the dual language missionary companionships are speaking English one day in their pensions and Castillano the next. All of the missionaries have a half hour of language study everyday and the newest missionaries have more. When I was talking with one of the Latin elders about his experiences in the pension, he said that they mostly speak casti-yankee. It made me laugh.
When my MTC Spanish tutor suggested that I pray in Spanish, I began to bless the food and say family prayers in Spanish. However, my personal prayers, for the most part stayed in English. One of the native English speaking elders shared his experience.
He explained that he truly developed his relationship with Father in Heaven in Spanish. He came to know Him, in Spanish. Because of that, he cannot even imagine saying his personal prayers in English. I believe that is true of many of the missionaries. The language experiences spawn spiritual experiences. The spiritual experiences then enhance the language in an incredible circle of blessings. I am a witness of the love and help with which Father blesses each of the missionaries, myself included.
While Nephi writes specifically of the written word, I know that the words that are spoken in weakness will be made strong unto those that listen
“…pues los persuaden a hacer el bien; les hacen saber acerca de sus padres; y hablan de Jesus y los persuaden a creer en El y a perserverar hasta el fin, que es la vida eterna.”
“…for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.”