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06 March 2024

Five things we’ve learned as beginners in French 


Michael and Rani Grivas-Allison are serving the Lord with CMS in Belgium. They are engaging in full-time language learning in preparation for French-speaking ministry with the Christian university group, GBU. Here, they share five lessons they’ve learnt through language learning: 

 

We have spent our first ten months in Belgium learning the language and culture, and recently reached a level described as ‘survival French’. Gradually, we are becoming more familiar with the French language through through classroom learning, casual speaking and listening. In God’s kindness, he has taught us many things throughout the process of language learning. Here are five lessons we’ve learnt so far:

 

1. Language learning is all about time

When we arrived, we worried lots about whether we were progressing fast enough in French. We now know that no matter how diligent or motivated we are, language learning is a process that takes time. This has been a great perspective shift and has encouraged us to ‘trust the process’, especially on the days when we accidentally say ‘merci’ instead of ‘bonjour ‘ to greet our neighbours! 

 

2. Time ‘at the desk’ is important

Thankfully, we don’t lack opportunities to use French in real life. However, we’ve both recently learnt that we need to spend more time memorising grammar and vocabulary. As we cover more content, we’re learning that our language needs to be ready to use in all situations. To achieve this, we need time ‘at the desk’ to study and memorise. Please pray that we’d grow in our capacity and focus to do this as we begin the next level of French. 

 

3. Beware of spiritual attack

We’ve learnt that there are many things Satan can use to discourage us as we learn French for gospel ministry. Ordinary things like sickness, comparing ourselves to other workers, or our unhelpful inner voices have at times discouraged us. There are also experiences that rattle us, like the time a guy asked Rani for a cigarette and then mocked her French, or when a helper at Alexi’s crèche unhelpfully compared our language skills. We’re increasingly aware of the need to armour up with what God has provided (Ephesians 6) and resist the devil so that he flees from us (James 4). 

 

4. Progress is a privilege

Over the last few months, we’ve seen many of our classmates drop out or pause French learning because of life’s pressures. For some, the course is too expensive, or they need to take a job to support their family, or it’s too difficult to juggle children and study. We are so thankful that the CMS fellowship and GBU have generously freed us up to learn French full-time and until we are proficient.  

 

5. Praise God that he keeps the goal before us!

God is kind in constantly reminding us why we’re learning French. For example, we live next to one of the main universities and enjoy seeing our neighbourhood filled with students each day. We have also begun gathering semi-regularly with the GBU staff team to pray, and each time we meet our hearts are warmed to the ministry. At church, we listen to others preach, read the Bible and praise God in French, and are excited for when we can do these things too. These are all gifts from God, as he keeps the goal before us. Please pray that he will keep our hearts fervent for the reason we’re here. 

 

PRAY  

Thank God for the generosity of his people, which enables gospel workers like Michael and Rani to learn language and culture. Pray for continued growth in wisdom, skill and character to persevere with language learning.