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.