How’s language going?

F*, working with the Samburu TIMO team, gives this update on how language learning is going so far…

“So, how do you say ‘What’s your name?’ in Samburu?”

“Well, that’s the thing, they don’t really ask that.”

“They don’t ask, ‘What’s your name?’!”

“No.” — “Oh…”


The Samburu, related to the Masaai, are unreached people living in North East Kenya

So began our first intrepid steps into language learning. Instead of asking ‘What’s your name?’ you are more likely to ask ‘Which family are you from?’ I know three different words in Samburu for ‘desert’. I know words to describe animals that are white with spots, black and white, patches of two colours, many coloured, and four different words for grey. I know the names of all the clothing and bracelets that the people wear. None of these things would make the school syllabus for learning a foreign language, but here these things matter. Language learning is much more than learning words; it’s learning a culture and a way of life, it’s expressing an interest in the people and valuing the things they value. There are days when it is exciting and days when it is frustrating. But language opens doors; the people appreciate our efforts and we hope one day soon for the privilege of explaining the good news of Jesus in the heart language of the people we are growing to love.

* F’s name in this article has had to be removed for security purposes. Following the conclusion of this two year TIMO team, F has gone to work in a creative access location with AIM, and continues to be passionate about sharing the gospel with those yet to hear.

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