Tips for Language Study

I have been studying and praying about taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test this December.  I was getting super worked up about it, unable to decide which level to take, because there’s this feeling of guilt over what I feel I ought to be able to accomplish that I couldn’t shake, and a fear of regret over spending the money on travel, lodging, study materials and the test itself if I were to fail due to being overambitious.

I have concluded that I ought to spend the money just on studying for right now, and take the test at a later date.  I am seeing quite a bit of change in my ability to recall and use the language, and my friends are encouraging me greatly, after only about one month’s worth of studying and speaking with them.  My sister-in-law watched all three kids on Friday for me to be able to go to the Japanese Table at ETSU and hear and practice speaking Japanese for two hours.  She is such a blessing.

God has brought my friend Mutsumi San back into my life, visiting every Tuesday and talking with me while our children take over the back yard and trampoline for a while.  I’m so glad to get to see her more often again.  Our mutual friend, Mayako San has come once as well.  It was super loud with six children under five running around here, but such a joy!


So, I thought I’d share my carefully pondered advice to a question that I get very often.

“Do you have any advice on learning another language?”

Here are three bits of advice that are hopefully helpful, from someone who is by no means an expert, but has spent several years manipulating unusual sounds and words like a child with play-doh, sometimes capably building a lopsided castle.

  • Don’t beat yourself up over minor flaws.

You start learning your first language(s) from inside the womb, and utilizing it at a young age.  Just as you couldn’t up and run a marathon at the age of 1, neither could you orate Shakespeare.  As adults, we often think that we ought to have a one up on the ability to learn a language, but truly the opposite is correct.  Brains are hardwired for learning language early, and it becomes more difficult with each year past the age of 12.  When I began learning Spanish, I told my mom, “Yo amor usted,” using English based syntax and a simple word for word lookup in the dictionary.  I should have said, “Yo te amo.”  I didn’t beat myself up over the incorrectness because I was five years old.  The message was conveyed and that’s all that mattered.  You will improve over time, and as long as you find a way of communicating, and you are willing to continue learning from your mistakes, you will do just fine.  Take it easy on yourself.  You can’t remember all the ways you messed up learning your first language, and you speak it just fine now.  It takes time, and a LOT of mistakes to learn a language well.  Eventually, you move on from play-doh to legos, and castle building becomes easier.

  • You cannot learn another language well without being willing to re-learn your first language.

There were two boys from Mexico in my high school Spanish class.  They failed.  They spoke Spanish fluently, but had no idea what conjugation or even a noun was.  You may decide to take up a second language without knowing what conjugation is, yourself, but you will not succeed without learning that it is something you do as second nature in your first language.  I understood English so much better after graduating with a degree in Spanish.  Don’t assume that other languages are weird/more difficult just because they do things differently.  You may find you do them yourself in your mother tongue without realizing it.  And conversely…

  • You cannot learn another language well without letting go of your first language a little.

You can’t pick up a cello and try to play it like a trombone, or flute.  Yes, you can drum on it, but you’ll be missing out on all of it’s beauty until you learn how to put the bow to the strings.  Communication does not occur in a word for word, this language to that one, direct translation.  I cannot tell someone in Japanese, “don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” and expect them to get the warning to not be overly ambitious.  I have to learn to say, “don’t count tanuki skins before the hunt.”  My husband and I are “like two peas in a pod,” but in Spanish, “like two drops of water.” This extends beyond phrases, as well.  Did you know that you don’t speak a language in Hungarian?  I can’t say “I speak English/Hungarian/Chinese,” as if I own or have mastered them. I must say that “I speak englishly/hungarianly/chinesely” as though I speak under the guidance and influence of the language’s style.

I have tutored so many frustrated students who write their papers first in English and then try to convert them into the second language they are learning.  It just doesn’t work.  Please stop doing it that way.  Think about the concept you want to convey, pondering it as long as you need to, but don’t write anything down in the first language.  Then, consider what you know how to say in your second language, and start writing the concepts that you have pondered with the abilities you have mastered.  It is much easier to write within your current skill level, than attempt to translate a subjunctive statement when you have no idea how.  (Especially if you don’t even realize you’re using the subjunctive, see advice #2 above.)


Now that I have shared, I’ll of course have to take my own advice and not push my own studies too hard.  My brain is older, has been literally beaten around a bit, and could use being cut some slack for not remembering things as well as it used to.

Feel free to let me know of any advice, tips, or tricks you have in learning new things, especially languages, in the comments section below!


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Make Us One, Lord…

Recently, our church has seen the departure of what turns out to be about half of our congregation considering the number of people we began with.  In one of the last services we had together with those who were about to depart for the mission field, new jobs, and other destinations, I decided to move away from the seat I originally chose in order to go stand and sing beside someone I consider a good friend.  It’s always better to sing with someone, after all, especially if they are leaving next week. We happened to be singing “Shadows” by DC*B ft. Lecrae, and I was overwhelmed with praise for the God who brings us through our trials. I was arms-raised and weeping overwhelmed, and I was not alone. There is a unity the Holy Spirit brings to Christ’s church when we truly worship together. It is beautiful and solidifying, it breaks any fear we have of separation because we know we will be worshipping together in Heaven. Worshiping the same God, all of us. It’s glorious, and glory-bestowing on the one who made it happen, when we praise Him together.

This comes after having to go through the difficult transition of leaving the church I have been in for 20+ years to start the little church plant that God called my husband to help pastor. I’m going to be honest, it was hard for me. I miss all the people who invested their lives in me, and all the children who I have invested a part of my life in.  And the same holds true for family and family-like friends who are scattered abroad- my loved ones in North Carolina, in Hungary, in Japan.  It also stretches beyond earthly limitations as well.

A few weeks prior, a friend of many of us went to be with God in Heaven. He was known for singing loudly with a deep heart of gratitude towards his savior. Several people remarked at his funeral that He would now be singing in the presence of his Savior. The Sunday afterward, once again, I was weeping while singing, considering the connection across the immeasurable division created by death between those of us still living and those who have passed on. It reminded me of others who have passed on to join the choir of every tongue, tribe, and nation.  I began pondering again how we on earth are connected with those who have passed on any time we truly worship God. It just amazes me. I was struck by the thought when I miscarried my first child. The thought that I might be singing along with Ariel, who was already in the presence of God worshiping Him ahead of me, was astounding. It gave me joy.  The knowledge that my friend, though her husband is no longer here, is singing along with him every time she opens her mouth to praise her Savior. It’s beautiful.

We are singing to the same God. We with our little choirs in different church buildings all across the globe are all singing to the same God, sometimes at the same time. We with our little voices down here on earth, are raising up a song that joins as a verse with the never-ending song closest to God’s ear in Heaven, and we are united with those loved ones there as well.

Across the greatest distances, across the impassable boundaries between living and living anew…

We are worshiping the same God.

We are worshiping for the same reason- we’ve all been saved by Jesus Christ.

We are worshiping, indwelled by the same Holy Spirit.  Not several different spirits. Not pieces of Him, either. He is one. Therefore we are united by Him being us. When we worship God. We all are one. Praise God, Friends!

It’s hauntingly beautiful to me.  Thank you, God.


Filed under Deep and Wide

Jack’s Birth Story!


My Friend’s Homebirth Story.

Originally posted on Journey:

Baby Monk Monk just turned 3 months, so I guess his birth story is “old news.” Bunkee is sleeping through the night now (unless I just jinxed that!), he’s down from 8 or 9 feedings a day to 6, I’ve started working at my new job, and things are starting to settle down a little. In my last post I promised to tell our birth story; whether or not anyone wants to read it remains to be seen, but I’m telling it, starting today and finishing it sometime before Chumpkin turns 30. I think.

We were waiting anxiously for something to happen. My due date came and went on Sunday before Thanksgiving without even a smidge of a labor indicator. My midwife had warned me that first-time moms often go late, so I wasn’t too surprised that Munchie was a little late. The emails, texts, and facebook messages piled up…

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What’s in a Name?

My mom recently asked me out of the blue if I was pregnant.  I was quite shocked.  I mean, I just had a baby three (almost four) months ago.  She then began asking about my friends.  I had to know why and to my surprise it was because my baby name book had been left out.

This book has turned heads before.  It’s how Will Jackson knew we were having Bug.  (And it was on a shelf when he saw it.)  On the other hand, I have had one family member walk into my home and use the bathroom right after I had taken a positive test and left it out on the counter.  This person was completely oblivious, and very surprised when we told her a few months later.

So let me set things straight.  I love onomastics.  Go ahead and use a dictionary if you need to look it up.  It will make you smarter.  So, if I meet someone whose name I don’t know the meaning of, I will look it up within the day.

So the baby name book is out on occasion.

However, for those who really know me, it is Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words being off the shelf that should start you questioning when the next Gibson delight will arrive.  Although, I could also just be studying the Bible.  Because that’s what it’s supposed to be used for…  :D

It is a treasure trove of beautiful, meaning-rich names that my husband is almost certain to demerit to middle-name status.  I care most about the meaning of a name as reason for its selection, then I care secondly about what kind of lives were lived under the name.  (I can’t stand the name Jonathan, because I’ve known too many, even though it has a beautiful meaning.  Matthew is a great alternative with a similar meaning.)  I personally believe everyone ought to know what a name means before sticking a child with it for the rest of his or her life.   I also believe it does affect the kid.  I have never met a calm-mannered child named Aiden.  They tend to be little balls of fire, living up to the name.  Ace laughs all the time, and it befits his real name.

So your challenge for the day is to find out what your own name means, and your kids’ if you have any.  (And absolutely if you are about to have any!)


“Freedom from bitterness” Gibson


Filed under Other Ramblings

Just Found This Little Gem:



Not personally being afraid of clowns myself, even this guy made me jump a bit.  So, I thought I’d share.  We still have the couch, thankfully not that clown.

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Activity for Newly-Big Siblings

Not that you have a lot of time on your hands to make this, but if you can find some- you may get a five minute break as a reward while your older child colors it in.  If you are a close friend about to have a baby, *ahem, Joy,* I would be glad to make one for your child.  Image

Color the baby’s footprints! It promotes bonding, gives mom a mini-break, and makes a sweet keepsake.  Take your baby’s footprints and trace them out onto tracing paper.  It looks pretty awesome on its own.  So make the tracing into a keepsake and use a copier to make a copy on printer paper for your child to color.FootprintTrace


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Mothers Are Never Alone When Alone

Awesome, well-written blog on Motherhood.

Mothers Are Never Alone When Alone.

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