Excerpts from autobiography Cast Your Bread
Chapter Seven At Home in Language Study
Years ago a western missionary to Lebanon published an article in a little paper describing different types of missionaries. The first type was a missionary who came and never did anything. The second type of missionary was a good person, but he spent a lot of time trying to learn the language that was really wasted time. The third and ideal kind of missionary came to the field with a heart heavy and burdened for souls. He wanted to win these souls before Jesus came, so he employed an interpreter and got right into the work of getting the Gospel to perishing souls!
That missionary had found the language difficult and had told Richard that as a last resort, he was buying an LP record with Arabic conversations recorded on it to be played while sleeping with the hoped result that the nformation would be embedded into the brain for speaking Arabic! Richard suggested that he save his money to pay the interpreter! That ideal third type of missionary did not remain on the field for long and the LP record is now obsolete but View of mountains from balcony waiting for the next “third type” of missionary to use it.
The Hesters also realized that they could not really understand the people and their thinking without learning their language. Knowing their language holds the key to understanding their culture and way of thinking.
Strategy for Language Study
Richard and Kathleen soon launched into disciplined language study. There was no school to teach foreigners the Arabic language in Tripoli, so they devised their strategy of how to proceed. The Lord led them to an excellent teacher who was strong in Arabic grammar and knowledgeable in English. They first selected a book in English with phonetic letters for the
Arabic alphabet that taught some basics of the colloquial or spoken Arabic. It taught them how to meet people, what to say, how to talk in the market to buy necessities, and many other practical daily scenarios. Two hours in class daily and many hours of study, five days a week for about six weeks got them talking about every day ctivities. They would be talking and practicing their knowledge with the people on a daily basis.
Both cleaned housand tidied up other needed tasks on Saturday. Sunday was spent working in an Englishspeaking
or translated language church in Ras Beirut during the first year of study. Beirut was around 90 minutes to two hours drive each way depending on the traffic. John and Juanita Haynes, members of the Ras Beirut church, pened their home to the Hesters on the weekends which was a great help and blessing! These various excerpts from letters of the Hesters reveal an “inside view” of their language study:
“The word ‘yella’ means ‘hurry,’ but it actually means nothing here because no one gets in a hurry. Ha ha! We are trying to maintain a daily schedule for at least six hours study besides two hours class time with the teacher. It is very important that we practice our small knowledge of Arabic as much as possible. Believe me, I think we’ve early invented some new words! But most of the people have been very kind and sympathetic in helping us. I don’t think we’ve studied any harder since we’ve been here, and the Lord gave a wonderful month of progress in Arabic. It eems that language study runs in a mixed patternsometimes you are progressing and the other half of the time it seems that you are getting nowhere.”
In April 1960: “We were really tired when we got back from Beirut Sunday night. It seems like every week gets more tiresome. Either that, or I’m getting old! For some reason, Sunday really takes it out of me. Monday is kind of a iller for both of us as we seem so worn out and there is little time to study for our lesson that day. So we have now set Monday aside for a complete review of all that we studied the week before. But even at that, there is a real eed for study as it is difficult to know all the lessons if you haven’t looked over them again. It would help us if the teacher could come in the afternoon on Monday.”
Again, “We’re both a bit tired this afternoon. We have just finished typing about 60 monthly prayer letters. By the way, we saw an old villager riding a donkey down the street by our house today and he was holding up an umbrella over his head! The poor donkey’s head had to suffer the heat! We now have three hours of Arabic lessons each day with two teachers. The second teacher gives us pure conversation for one hour.”
Again, “We have decided to study Arabic from the Bible. We’ll probably stay with lessons from the Bible most of the summer before beginning another book of classical Arabic (the written Arabic). Instead of just taking the Gospel of John verse by verse which would take 3 months if we really worked like mad, we are thinking of just icking certain stories and important chapters, or more used passages. That way, we could get over a number of important passages in the Bible this summer. However, 15 or 20 verses will probably be about the maximum each ay as there are many new words that we have to learn. Also, we will learn the corresponding words in the ‘derige’ or spoken language and try to be able each day to recite the story or passage in colloquial (the spoken Arabic).”
Additionally, “We had a good laugh this week. A missionary preached at church with an interpreter into Arabic. He got really worked up and said some things that really weren’t wanted or appreciated by the interpreter or some of the congregation. So the interpreter just skillfully omitted the objectionable section completely and filled the gap with suitable replacements! Only the people who knew both Arabic and English would have picked up the change, and, of course, the missionary preached right on ‘with power’ unaware that anything had happened and feeling that he had killed the golden goose! I told Kathleen on the way home that I don’t want someone editing my words or doing my thinking for me! And, I pray that God will give me enough sense to be discreet and understanding so that I will not be in need for someone to edit my sermon or do my thinking!” Another idea, “We now want to record the teacher speaking every lesson from the Bible in the colloquial or spoken language so we can listen and practice from it. We have the second lady coming in for an hour each day. This lady has taught some Americans before so she does well in conversation with us. We want to just take all the verbs that we have had and make conversation with them.” (All nouns and adjectives come from the root verb.) Great news! “I gave a brief talk on soul winning in the church which was my first public Arabic adventure. We are enjoying Arabic study from the Gospel of John now. We are really benefitting from the extra hour’s lesson each day strictly for conversation and pronunciation. Our need for daily patience and wisdom is great, so please continue to pray for us. These days of Arabic study are very important because we are ‘helpless’ here without the language, both in understanding the people and in giving the Gospel.”