Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Our Juggling Act

We feel a little like circus performers in a juggling act as we try to make the shift from Wycliffe PR mode to Steinborn departure mode while trying to still balance aspects of both over the next couple of weeks. On Monday, I taught a language-learning workshop for new missionaries with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC). This is the fourth time I’ve done this since coming home in 2005, and it’s been a learning experience for me as well as my students. I began by putting together what was initially a 4-5 hour course (a combination of straight teaching and interactive demonstration) based on an effective language-learning technique developed by a guy called Greg Thomson. Then the PAOC asked me to turn the teaching part into an on-line course, and do the practical demonstration part as a one and a half hour workshop. That’s what I did on Monday.

I begin the workshop with a short video about a new radar operator at a German coast guard station (it’s part of an advertisement for a Berlitz language learning program). Just as he sits down, he receives a distress signal: “Mayday, mayday! We are sinking, we are sinking!”

His response? “What are you sinking about?” (German does not have a ‘th’ sound, so German speakers tend to pronounce ‘thinking’ as ‘sinking’ :) Ah, yes, the challenges of learning a foreign language! The wrong sound or wrong tone in the wrong place and disaster awaits!

Because it’s an interactive workshop (I select one or more students who speak other languages to be language teachers, while the rest are language learners) and active (the techniques involve body movements, various actions, and object manipulation), the new missionaries usually have a lot of fun with it. It also tends to make them feel less intimidated by the thought of having to learn a completely new language, especially when they see how easy and do-able it is. I’ve even had veteran missionaries sitting in on the classes come to me afterwards and say, “Boy, I wish we’d known this stuff when we were trying to learn a new language. It would have been soooo much easier!”

Today we visited a lawyer to get our wills updated. Now that we’re empty-nesters, it was time. And it certainly didn’t take very long. One of the benefits of travelling light, I guess :) In fact, we spent more time talking with the lawyer about our work in Burkina and development work in Africa in general than about the details of our wills!

Just got an updated quote on airfare to Burkina. Prices are climbing. We could have had them for $1200 each a month ago with a flight directly out of Toronto to Paris and on to Ouaga. Now we’re looking at $1800 each and a more convoluted flight plan. However, we’ve sent some additional inquiries to see what else is out there. Your prayers would be much appreciated.

Our landlord is beginning to show our townhouse to potential new tenants just as we’re starting to pull stuff out of cupboards and off shelves to beginning sorting, organizing, and packing it. So the challenge will be to keep things to a relatively tidy mess. Speaking of which, I’d better go and help clean things up a bit before they arrive today!

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