Language Classes

Language is a priority for most missionaries in today’s world and Shannon and I are no exception. Our oversight has strongly suggested that we not get overly involved with ministry until we have completed a semester of language. That being the case, Shannon and I are up to our monolingual necks in Ukrainian as we have recently enrolled as full-time language students at Ivan Franco University.


These first couple weeks of classes have been interesting. We started our first day off as a class of three, us and one Brazilian girl. Things got off to a slow start. Instead of speaking Ukrainian for most of the first day we acted as very mediocre translators between our broken English speaking teacher and our broken Spanish speaking classmate. Lately class has grown as we have been joined by four young Chinese fellows who often epitomize Chinese youth, all garbed in the newest trendy knock-off American jacket, the same basic style of wire rimmed glasses, and jeans. Apparently the space between Mandarin and Ukrainian is significant because these guys are struggling big time. They have been good sports about it though and they are plenty willing to laugh at themselves, which is good because otherwise I’d be at it solo. Other late additions to the class have been two Bosnians and a Lebanese guy.


Ukrainian is not proving to be a cake walk for us either. There are a lot of new sounds, combinations of old sounds, and deceivingly similar sounds that we can barely squeak out. From the little grammar we have done it is projecting to be complex. It seems to me that Ukrainian’s major linguistic differences from English are that it makes heavy use of a case system, has gender differentiations, and has no “to be” verb which we are still trying to figure out and sounding like very good cavemen.


One missionary friend has told us that it takes approximately a year for a gifted person to reach a working competency in a language that is linguistically similar, and it might take longer depending on how different the language is from a person’s native tongue. In any case it sounds like we are going to be at this Ukrainian thing for a while and we could really use your prayers and encouragement as we trust and wait patiently and persevere.

Ukrainian??!!...(a great picture from one of our phrasebooks)

Ukrainian??!!...(a great picture from one of our phrasebooks)


11 thoughts on “Language Classes

  1. David,
    From your description of Ukrainian I have to admit that I may have been misinformed when I told you that it was easier than Russian. The cases are one of the major hurdles for me having learned Spanish for 7 years (it sounds like we might have that in common too?) which has none of that.

    Good to see your blog. Maybe we’ll run into each other in Ukraine sometime.

  2. Will definitely pray for you guys in this Ukrainian crazy endeavor. BTW, I tried to leave a comment on the last post and my silly computer wouldn’t let me. You should use that tortilla to make an amazing Freebird’s style burrito. Ya’ll could eat that for at least a week….


  3. We’re counting on you two to teach us some basic phrases when we come and visit. We will definitely be praying, especially because the only language us Gorans ever mastered was “Garble” (A form of gibberish unique to our family.)
    Love you,

  4. Gorans you all are going to crush the language. 20 weeks you will be running strong. And you know what’s cool is when a relative or friend come from the states who don’t speak a lick of Ukrainian and are counting on you to translate. All of the sudden you realize you know more than you thought you did.

    I just can’t tell you how much I believe God has orchestrated your coming to Ukraine. I remember when I first met shannon’s dad. I got the sense that he was asking questions about how shannon might become a GBGM missionary or skip that and persue something else. I think it was hard for him to forsee that God might have brought her the first time to Lviv for something greater later. And he wouldn have thought that. But I believe God was preparing this for you all.

    stay strong. keep plugging away. the cases come, some things you never pronounce right, but you are understood. And you will learn quickly that you are like a dog – you understand a lot but can’t speak.

    Be blessed,

  5. Shannon,

    You gettin’ updates for tomorrows big game? Of course tomorrow (meaning tomorrow as in today) will be yesterday for you…got all that?

    We’ll see if the Long Horns can pull it out?

  6. I bet you guys are learning more than you think you are! I can’t imagine how much fun your class must be– with such a diverse group of folks! Keep the updates coming. We love and miss you guys.


  7. No verb to be? That’s hard to imagine but I think Mandarin might be kind of like that too. Have fun with the genders too. If it’s anything like German a lot of times they don’t really make sense. I know you guys will do great though and will be good translators for me when I come to Ukraine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s