A Reflection On Our Past Year of Language Study

Anyone who has studied a second language in depth knows that it is more than just learning to read, speak, and write. It is also about learning a new culture and a new way of thinking. We would love to give you an idea of what we have be learning without overwhelming you. Here are a few facts about the Thai language:


Thai Alphabet

1. Thai is a tonal language (5 tones).

2. Thai has short and long vowels, which change the word and sometimes change the tone.

3. Thai writing has 44 consonants and 32 vowels.

4. Thai writing has no spaces between the words.

5. Many words in Thai have been replaced with English words, but said like a Thai.

6. There 4 tone markers, along with multiple other symbols that shorten a vowel sound, mark silent letters, etc.

For us language study has been our main job for the past year. Not only has it been the main focus of our ministry, but it is how we survive here in Thailand. We have to use our language to buy a car, register our car, get car insurance, buy a new appliance, etc. Daily routines that seemed so easy in the United States have now become very long and taxing experiences (and sometimes very embarrassing!). However, I believe that these situations not only help us learn language, but also help us to learn more about our own culture and language, learn a lot about my new culture, learn to persevere, and learn to be humble:

1. Learn More About My Own Culture And Language

We have learned so much about our own culture and language by learning Thai. It seems so difficult to understand the colloquial Thai when you are speaking to someone on the street. However, you start to realize how much slang and jargon we used when speaking English too. Then there are also very obvious things like greetings, goodbyes, personal space, speaking straight to the issue or around it, etc. In much of Thai language you would never speak directly to the issue because it may cause someone to “lose face”, where as in English we are more likely to be very specific to avoid ambiguity. As we learn the language and adapt to the culture we begin to find these things more normal. And we know that to be true when we come back to America and see how different the culture is.

2. Learn A Lot About My New Culture

Learning a new language gives you so much insight into the new culture you live in. Sometimes it is purely impossible to understand some of the language without having knowledge of the culture. A very simple example would be that Thailand is a monarchy. There is specific language to be used when addressing or speaking about the king to show respect. That means the same work for “to say” is different in everyday language compared to royal language.  And the royal language is also used in the Bible, since it is speaking of God. Also, the new slang words in Thai show a lot of insight into culture because the younger generation are using more and more English words. The older cultural ways are beginning to fade and be replaced by an “international” culture.  (For example,”finwer” = finale over, meaning “that was awesome!”)

3. Learn to Persevere

We have all had those moments in school where it seems you will never understand what you are supposed to be learning. For some people that was mathematics, language arts, science, or history, but all of us have experienced it. You can remember how frustrated you felt and the desire to “just be done with it.” In language learning there are many of those times. It seems once you have gone over one hill, you see another. However, the reality is that it took us many years of studying to learn our native language, and there will always be things we still don’t understand. From the mouths of those who have been before us in Thailand, you must persevere because it takes time to learn the language. As finite beings, it can feel like a year or more is forever. However, every missionary that has been successful thus far has said that the most important thing is to learn the language.

4. Learn To Be Humble

To learn a new language you have to become like a child and be prepared to laugh at yourself. We have noticed that if we get too stressed about saying something perfect or accidentally saying something embarrassing, then it seems our brain shuts off to learning anything. It is strange to be an adult, yet feel like a child. You find yourself doing charades to buy something at the store because you don’t have enough language to communicate. Or you say a Thai word over and over, but to no avail the employee can only stare with a confused look on their face. However, when they final say it you are positive you said it the same way. In the end, those who have been willing to humble themselves, laugh at themselves, and show an interest in learning Thai not only gain the language but relationships, too.

Fun Videos about Thai Language

The World’s Most Complicated Writing System

LangHub: Months and Days of the Week

Emotional Thai Commercial- A Mother, A Daughter and A Pineapple 

Have It Your Way

I have had the topic of God’s will on my mind lately. As I think about this topic, I can’t help but to think of two common ideas that Christians use often:

  1. God has a wonderful plan for your life.
  2. What is God’s will for my life?

Before I get my thoughts out, let me preface that these two statements may have some truth to them or the people who use it may intended to mean something that is very much true and Biblical, but I want to stop to discuss the dangers of these types of phrases.

Life Is Not Always Wonderful

It is very much true that the Lord has something wonderful for our life here on Earth and later in heaven. However, when we hear the word “wonderful,” our minds tend to drift toward never getting sick, no problems in our family, having a steady job, etc. However, Paul often speaks to the early church about suffering for God’s kingdom and enduring that suffering because it will produce in us something worth more than gold (Rom. 5:3; Eph. 3:13; 2 Tim. 1:5,8; 2:3; 4:5; 1 Pet. 2:19). The danger in telling others or yourself that God has a wonderful plan for your life is that it leads people to expect life following Christ to be an easy life. Having new life with Christ is wonderful! Freedom from sin and hope in Christ is wonderful! But life in Christ is by no means easy.  I fail to see people who truly follow the Lord Jesus Christ who do not experience some kind of difficulty or suffering in their life.  Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).

I think the best perspective to have is one like Paul’s in Philippians 4:11-13:

“…for I have learned in what ever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty or hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Causes Misunderstanding and Self-Foscused Attitude

The other day my wife was listening to a Podcast called Stand to Reason with an apologist Greg Koukl, and he was talking with a listener about God’s Will. The question, “What is God’s will for my life?” came up in the conversation. I think that Greg Koukl said it well: it should not be “What is God’s will for my life?” rather we should say, “My life for God’s will.” I believe Greg Koukl’s statement makes most sense in light of what I know about God and the Bible. God is working out His plan, and we are to participate with Him. We have the privilege of being part of what God is doing in our world. When we ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” I believe it becomes easy to be self-focused and lose sight of what we are really called to do. Again, asking that question may not be completely bad because the Lord is at work in the individual life, too. However, let us not forgot God has already spoken through the Word, Jesus Christ, and we have the word, the Bible, that has laid out much of what God has for us while on Earth.


Lastly, I believe the statements above can also cause us to be short-sighted. We can see only what is right in front of us, causing us to strive after the here and now. Jesus said, “…lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Our perspective should always be bent toward eternity. That is why we, as Christians, live so differently. Imagine if we actually looked at all we did through the lens of eternity! Wow! I think our lives would be noticeably different. This would cause us to view suffering, possessions, relationships, and everything else in our lives much differently, and position our hearts not to get angry at God when things go awry.

I ask everyone who reads this to try using the above phrases less so as to not confuse others, especially those new to following Christ.  Instead, why not try using the phrase “My life for God’s will” more often and see where it takes you. I would like to conclude with a quote from CS Lewis’s book The Silver Chair because I think it puts God’s will into perspective for us. To help explain the quote, the children are trying to decide whether or not to release a boy they had just met from the chair to which he had tied himself. The boy had warned them not to let him out or he would end up hurting them. On the other hand, Aslan told the children that if anyone commands them to do something “In the name of Aslan” then they must do it. And of course, the boy tied to the chair changes his countenance, and suddenly commands them, “In the name of Aslan let me out of this chair!” At this point in the story, the children begin to debate what they should do, but Puddleglum says this:

“…Aslan didn’t tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he’s up, I shouldn’t wonder. But that doesn’t let us off following the signs.”

God’s Will Or Just A Lazy Excuse

If It’s God’s Will…

First let me get out of the way that I believe in the sovereignty of God on all that occurs in this entire vast universe He has created. However, I have noticed in the lives of many Christians (including myself) we can toss around the phrase “If it’s God’s will…” In all truth that phrase is completely true. God is in control, and if He wants something to happen on this earth then it will happen in spite of us. However, let us not begin to use the phrase to excuse laziness. I noticed that many people say this exact thing in situations that will never occur unless they get up and do something or God literally drops it into their lap. God’s will becomes something we cannot know anything about at all or just a big waiting game. Please don’t think I am bashing on you if you’ve done this because I am guilty myself of doing this exact thing.

Let me give you an example. I was walking by an extremely dirty homeless man eating old pieces of corn next to the trash. Across from him was a cart selling the exact thing he was eating but fresh. A thought crossed my mind that I should buy him some fresh corn to eat rather than eat out of the trash. However, I have to admit, with shame, that I let my thoughts get the best of me. In the end, I was hoping something obvious would happen so I would know what to do but sadly enough I just walked right by heading onto my business at hand. I am pretty sure I would never be embarrassed to stand before God and know that I have fed the poor and homeless, but I know for a fact I would regret facing God having skipped an opportunity to love another human being for the sake of Christ.

What Is God’s Will?

“The way to find God’s will is to do God’s will for the next 15 minutes.”

-Adrian Rogers

Can we know God’s will? Yes, we can. I think often when people speak of God’s will it is more in a very vague, mystical way. It is something that is hard to figure out and takes a lot of work. Some people say that it is when we have a peace in our heart, hear a voice, etc. I believe God is capable of communicating His will in any manner He desires. However, I think we often ignore the most obvious way of knowing His will…the Bible. It is summed up well by David Platt who said, “If you are asking for God’s will, but not obeying God’s Word then we got it all wrong.” Please don’t get me wrong, I do not believe God is incapable of speaking to us in many ways, but I think we should start with the most obvious. There is much to learn from the Bible on how to live, act, and speak. Also, sometimes it is easy with the wrong view of God’s will to do nothing when faced with a decision.

Let’s Get Intentional

In the end, the danger I see in misunderstand what it means to seek God’s will is that we often don’t do anything. We wait for God to bring His will our way. The beautiful part is that we have a loving God that does bring His will our way at times. However, I feel I have missed out on many wonderful, life-chafing things because I didn’t intentional pursue God’s will. It is much easier for me to sit around hoping God will bring opportunities or people to myself. Some of the most awesome interactions with people, relationships built, or opportunities to be Christ to another have come when I stepped out into a situation I know from the truths of the Bible. I guess what I hope for all who followers of Christ (and for myself) is that we would see the adventure we could have by pursuing intentionally and passionately what we do know is God’s will.