It is hard on the mind because is has to learn a completely new way of thinking. It has to connect sounds with a whole new set of symbols, and then work out the meaning of those symbols when they come together to form words.
It is hard on the body because so much time has to be spent sitting still concentrating on learning this new code, and then turning symbols into sounds, spoken clumsily from a mouth which is still getting used to how different all these sounds are! It is physically draining.
It is hard on the emotions because I feel like I am a child again. I have to accept the fact that I put hours of work into reading, understanding and discussing with my teacher, what is effectively a simple, children's story - only a few lines! And I still don't understand all of it! I spend what seems like an AGE reading out-loud to my teacher, one word at a time. Sometimes it is so slow that we spend a whole lesson working on only one paragraph! It is demoralising.
Right now it is hard to believe that I will ever get faster or better at this! And my pride wants me to be good at it for all the wrong reasons. Reflecting on all this I have come to the following conclusions (not all connected to each other!):
- Aside from all that I believe about God and His helping and aiding, on a purely rational level I know that I WILL get better at this language, because that's what just happens. I learned to read and write English, I learned to play the guitar, I see my improvement on the piano all the time. When we practice things they get easier. Simple fact of life! We just need to be patient. I've been doing this for 2 weeks...of course I won't be able to read properly yet!
- My attitude in the midst of this process is all important. My very first day of learning to write, I learned a huge lesson. Making a mistake, I threw down my pencil in exasperation. My teacher exclaimed 'jai-yen!' (calm down, be patient) and with this single word I felt instant conviction of my childish attitude. It is not only important for my own growth in likeness to Jesus that I watch my attitude as I learn Thai, but also for my witness to others about my Lord Jesus.
- It is good that I feel weak. I think perhaps I have become too comfortable. I remember when as a VERY new Christian I first started to understand 2 Corinthians 4:7-9:
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."
I was SO excited to realise that it was ok that I felt weak - in fact, it is when I am seen to be weak that God is seen to be great! Imagine if I was some superhuman amazing person, then no-one would wonder why I don't fall apart when life gets tough, they'd just think it was part of my amazing powers! But then imagine (no, don't imagine, this one's the real one..!!) if I was a frail, broken, weak person who struggles and groans - then when I keep going in tough times people will wonder why such a rubbish person is able to do so. The only conclusion can be that it is God, it is His power, His energy, His love, Him at work - cos it is obviously not me!! Why do I always work so hard to throw doubt on this truth? Why do I want to be strong? Why do I want to cover up God's power at work by appearing 'together' myself?
My prayer is that my whole attitude to learning Thai, including my motivations, studying and attempts to use the language, would bring God glory - if that means I have to be weak, so be it!
Sola Fide, Sola Gracia, Sola Deo Gloria.