Learning how to talk the talk

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Future missionaries prepare to learn new languages using many different methods some of which include self-help books. (Photo by Maddi Dayton.)
Future missionaries prepare to learn new languages using many different methods some of which include self-help books. (Photo by Maddi Dayton.)

Many BYU students face the daunting task of preparing to serve a mission and those who have been assigned to speak a foreign language wonder whether they should start studying now.

Missionaries just a short step ahead of them offer some advice they wish they would have known before entering the Missionary Training Center.

“You literally walk into a class the first day and your entire class is taught in whatever language you are supposed to learn,” explained Elder Aaron Puzey, who is currently in the MTC. “For me, it was 100 percent Spanish, so really any previous study, no matter how small, is going to be helpful.”

Like many others, Puzey is glad he didn’t procrastinate the day of his language study. He explained that when he got his call to Argentina, he simply began studying out of an old Spanish textbook whenever he had some spare time.

Elder Gabriel Farmer also got a jump start on his language, but decided to take a more technological approach by purchasing software like Rosetta Stone and an app called Duolinguo.

“They actually worked pretty well,” said Farmer. “I was able to learn a lot in a short time, which is important when you only have a few weeks to prepare.”

While some decide to take on their own personal language study, others enter the MTC without knowing a single word of the language they have been assigned.

Elder Tyson Stanford explained he thought language study was what the MTC was for, so there was no pressure to learn it on his own beforehand.

“I regret it though,” he said, “I regret it very much.”

Other missionaries in the MTC seemed to agree that although it is not a requirement for missionaries to begin learning the language in advance, it’s something that definitely wouldn’t hurt.

“Even if you just know a few words, you will already be ahead of everyone else,” Farmer said.

However, some returned missionaries felt it really isn’t necessary for future missionaries to worry about studying the language before they leave.

Nathan Humphries, who returned home from the Philippines six months ago, said he doesn’t regret entering the MTC without knowing any Tagalog.

“The most important thing is really just the attitude of the missionary,” Humphries said. “If you have the dedication to study and speak it constantly on your mission, then you will be able to learn it. And if you commit to speaking in that language all the time, instead of using your native language whenever you can, it will come a lot faster.”

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