So far language learning progress has been steady. It’s taking time, but month by month I can look back and see improvement. I understand the recordings in my audio library better, things I had found hard became easy and other little things like that showing we were getting there.

I never had the thought “I’ll never learn this language”, until this week! We were pretty worn out and so we took an extra day off on Monday (call it a bank holiday). Then Tuesday came around and Gerdine and Stacie were off to deliver a baby (look out for an upcoming blog about that!) leaving me with the kids for the day. Wednesday then, let’s get back to it.

I woke up and was still tired (thanks Millie). That’s ok, it happens. It’s happened before; just force yourself out the door and go for it. Usually, things pick up. There’s no one around so I wander around the village and hear a hammer banging and go to check it out. One of the guys is nailing rafters to his house, great 🙂 He doesn’t seem like he wants to stop for a language session though, and people know now that having me help is like babysitting a 2-year-old. So I sit for a while. Then I go to sit with our village grandpa in the sun and we start chatting.

Mololo putting his “tangangi” on his house

It seems it’s a sleepy, lazy day, and unfortunately what I have prepared is a backlog of texts I need to check, which is intense work.
I had a transcription of a 3-minute long story (a full page of text) to get through about building houses – part of my compare how I speak to how a Kovol speaker speaks project. It doesn’t seem like it’s time to dig into that. OK I’ll just try to talk about building a house.

“I’m going to talk about building a house now” I start. “I get the posts and I plant the posts. Finished. I put the bearers on. Finished. I put the joists on. Finished. I put the floor on. Finished” Arrgh! Stop saying finished! My limp and repetitive story finally peters out with “the house is ready to sleep in now”. That didn’t feel good. Interest in helping seems low… that’s it I guess.

Rain moving in

“I’m never going to learn this language,” I think as I hike home. Nope, not time to give in to that defeatism yet. I have a cup of coffee, pull myself together and force myself out the door again. I saw one of the guys hanging out under Rhett’s house, let’s get that text checked… except he’s gone now. Should I hike somewhere and try to find people? It starts to rain…I end up talking to Rhett about Brexit.

A dirty Millie

After some lunch, I spot Mosiligam coming. Great! He’s a super helpful language teacher. Happily round 3 went well and we spent 2 hours poring over the 3-minute-long text. With a little time left before it’s time to play Mario with Oscar (Wednesdays, love it) I think what should we do? Another text? That’d be a bit much. I grabbed the guitar and we had an impromptu songwriting session instead using Kovol lyrics.

Some chords get thrown together, a chorus comes out (in Kovol)
“we’re going up, we’re going up
we’re almost there
we’re mountain people
we’re people from the mountain”

Let’s tell a story I say, we’ve arrived at the top. Mum needs to cook food, what’s dad doing? “Nothing” they answer and I burst out laughing.

“Mum gets a pot
she wants to prepare food
Dad is doing nothing
children are wandering around”

I’m quite pleased we bashed out an original song to some random chords I picked, only to find out later that Rhett and Stacie heard and thought we were just riffing on a Coldplay song. Apparently, my original song is actually just a melody I stole from somewhere else…

Wednesday turned out ok language learning-wise in the end.

The problem with language learning is that there’s always another day. This morning was another day with low motivation and no one around because it’s been raining all day. At least I’ve got that nice long 3-minute text to sit with and pull apart to figure out ways I can add a bit more flavour to my own sentences when I try to retell the story.

Keep going I tell myself. I’ll get there if I keep going.
Our village grandpa was telling me about the pain in his hand (arthritis I think) and reflecting on the fact that everything wears out. God’s word has life-giving truth to share about that. I’m sorry Kovol grandpa that I’m taking so long to learn to speak your language.


Naomi Bon · 01/09/2022 at 4:24 pm

Thank you Steve for this insight to the frustration of learning a language. Also the insight of relationships with the kovol people and how desperate you guys want to tell them about Jesus. Praying for you all.

    SteveStanley · 08/09/2022 at 9:43 am

    Glad to share. I’m sure I’ll be asked later on what it’s like to be in the middle of CLA and I won’t be able to remember 🙂 It’s all fresh now so it’s a good time to get it down. Grinding out those boring hours of practising with CLAware during mission sim does capture the mundane, repetitiveness of it a bit though thinking back!

Lois S. · 01/09/2022 at 10:45 pm

Thanks for keeping going for the sake of Kovol grandpa, and all the others who need Jesus. And for the sake of Jesus and those of us who are praying for you. Part of what “run with endurance the race set before you” looks like.

    SteveStanley · 08/09/2022 at 9:46 am

    Thanks for praying for us 🙂 We’ve entered ourselves into a marathon and sometimes we’re just needing that second wind to keep going!

Mandy Caley · 01/09/2022 at 11:58 pm

Oh Steve- you are an inspiration to us all and you have no idea. It took us 7 years to speak Palaka any kind of fluently. 10 if you count furloughs and breaks.

    SteveStanley · 08/09/2022 at 9:41 am

    It’s good to have so many who have gone before us so that it’s a cast iron fact that we will get this language if we keep going 🙂 It only feels like we never will! This week has been encouraging though 🙂

Angela · 02/09/2022 at 3:08 am

I hope you are saving these blogs somewhere. They would make a great book for new missionaries and their prayer warriors.

    SteveStanley · 08/09/2022 at 9:45 am

    Thanks Angela. Yes it’s all backed up, it’ll be available for us to look back at 🙂 Don’t know if I’ll want to read back on all my posts myself though, haha!

Bobbi Scholl · 02/09/2022 at 10:16 pm

We appreciate you sharing the realities of learning a difficult language in a difficult place! Love the song writing bit! haha I could see Drew doing that in a village somewhere. Hang in there! We continue to pray for you all. 🙂 The Scholl Crew

    SteveStanley · 08/09/2022 at 9:40 am

    Thanks for praying! It’s still a grind, but this week is going much better. I played the song to some other people afterwards and their response was “nagul” (true). I think that means they like it?

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