Friday, May 18, 2012

Thought for the Day
Good Morning Scotland
BBC Radio Scotland
May 18th, 2012

The Scottish government hopes that introducing a second and even a third language to children’s education will allow Scottish young people to “…flourish and succeed in (a) globalised (and) multi-lingual world…”

Scottish young people should find themselves at home in that world.

A week this Sunday, we will celebrate God’s gift of language to the early Church on the day of Pentecost and His equipping of the early apostles for their mission amongst different peoples and cultures.

I struggled with languages in High School back in Canada. My teachers may have thought I was thick. Others understood all too well that, perched on the edge of the Canadian west where pretty well nobody spoke French, I simply saw no reason to invest much energy in parsing the verbs ĂȘtre and avoir. And so I did the bare minimum - at the very last minute – and it seemed enough to scrape by.

My French – the language I can now work in, sing in, make friends in – I learned as a young adult – climbing off a Greyhound Bus in Quebec City with two suitcases and almost no ability to converse or ask meaningful questions. What followed was months of hand signals and garbled phrases. Eventually I could say intelligible things and people would respond with intelligible answers.

My wife and stepson have both studied French in Scotland in the way that I studied it in Canada. It’s their turn now - to move, with me, at the end of June, to the town of Clermont-Ferrand in central France where I am to be the parish priest in an Episcopal church there. While there are plans for their formal instruction to give them a base in conversation, their education will begin on the day they need to get themselves out of a jam in a train station or need to ask a question in a market.

By trial and error, with words which are misunderstood, partial and half-baked, we live and minister in communities which are not the places of our birth but which are places where will learn to belong.