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The world-changing gift of languages

The world is bigger than us!

The world is bigger than us. 

That should be obvious, but sometimes we live with cultural blinders. What I mean is that we go through our day, thinking thoughts in our own language within our own culture.  And we don’t really pay attention to the reality that there are multitudes who think thoughts in another language in another culture.

I have some experience with this myself. When I traveled to Europe with my father in 1971, I remember standing at Piccadilly Circus in London and watching a young salesman handling several international customers at a time—each one in a different language.  I was incredulous that anyone could speak that many languages, let alone use them in rapid-fire succession!

My second experience was when I traveled across the U.S. with a Youth With a Mission team to the Montreal Olympics and then to Boston.  It was there, in Boston, that I met an Egyptian who spoke English with a perfect British accent. It was fun to chat along in English about our shared experiences, and it felt like I was speaking to someone from Great Britain. But, when he turned to an Egyptian friend and spoke in Arabic, it was absolutely shocking to realize that English was not his native language! I could barely grasp the fact that these two Egyptians really understood each other as they chatted along in Arabic—it seemed to my very American ears to be a very difficult language.

Prague Rooftops Right about then, I came to the life-changing discovery that lots of folks speak and think and live in a language other than English.

The lesson was that learning someone else’s language is a gift—and a responsibility. It opens doors and expands horizons between people and nations. And it very efficiently helps to remove those cultural blinders that Americans so easily wear.

Dear ones, there is a huge wide world out there to serve, and learning a foreign language is great preparation. Perhaps more potently, it will better equip our children to change the world!

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