Our Native Language

Since I began working as an English as a Second Language Teacher eight years ago, I continually get the question: “What other languages do you speak?”. This is a legitimate question that I enjoy responding to. I say “No, actually I don’t speak any other languages, my students do not need me to speak their native language.”

There are some ESL jobs that encourage teachers to speak multiple languages but I haven’t done that yet. My students want me to listen to them practice English and communicate with me in a way that they are accepted, accent and all. I may pick up a few new words, but learning a language takes continual practice and dedication.

When I work with my students I think about how I would feel: coming to a new country where I didn’t know the geography well, didn’t have friends or family, and wasn’t fluent in the language. I want to be a friend and teacher in their new home.

Then there are the many days and moments when I feel like a stranger in my own land. The language I hear around me doesn’t seem right, I long to feel at home, to find rest, and security. Sometimes I write the feeling off to mean that I am just going to have to move overseas to still this unsteadiness, and even though God may allow that, I know the truth:

This is not my home. This is not my native language. These are not my boundaries.

We belong to a heavenly kingdom where our Father holds us near and our desires are satisfied in Him eternally.

Our words are to be used in a way that honors Christ because He’s the one who gave us a voice. We should listen to the Holy Spirit even though He doesn’t always speak clearly (or in a way that is easily decipherable for us). Ultimately God wants us to practice speaking our native language of heaven with Him through prayer daily, and privately where He will instruct us. From this time of immersing ourselves in His presence He gives us the initiative to impact our current home.  

I once studied Russian with a native speaker and we did a language trade. I taught her English and she taught me Russian. Russian seemed simple until I began to see what learning a language was really like. I had studied Spanish, but English and Spanish are not that different. We have a very similar alphabet. Russian is written with completely different sound concepts and sentence structure. Spanish influence and culture is relatively close to us in America. Russian is removed and sparse in our area. It took a lot of repetition, memory, and commitment to learn what I did. She only taught me for 6 months before I went to Eastern Ukraine. There my language practice seemed almost like nothing. I felt like my speaking level was that of a 1 year old. It showed me that I had just begun to learn about this place, people, and culture.

When I go to heaven I want it to seem a little familiar.

I know there will be wonders I cannot fathom and joys I cannot express, but here on earth I want to do my best to study the culture of the Kingdom. Jesus spoke many times of the Kingdom of Heaven and related it in various parables. He wanted to translate the Kingdom idea as much as possible, but pure translation is impossible. We read in Matthew 19:14(NLT), “Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.’

This is such an encouraging truth that Jesus taught! No matter how much we study and strive we will not earn our way into the Kingdom. He gives the right freely to enter through Him. We are to be as children, happy to accept the gift. No matter if we think we are prepared we will be beginner level when it comes to Kingdom language. Thankfully our Teacher Jesus will eternally be there to lead us. He gives us the citizenship of heaven, our native land.