Research shows that missionaries have the best chance at longevity on the field if they can communicate at ease and at the heart level in their host places and spaces. This means that language acquisition must be at the forefront of the missionary task for the long-term. However, one of the behind-the-curtain secrets of missionaries is that many struggle with language learning, and it interferes with everything in life— including staying on the mission field. Dr. Natalie Mullen Leisher, the director of the Institute for Cross-Cultural Training at Wheaton College, will discuss what we know now about missionary language acquisition and how missions organizations and on-field teams can help missionaries succeed in this all-important and extremely difficult task. She will address questions such as:
- Why do some missionaries succeed and others fail at language learning?
- What do missionaries need to know before beginning language acquisition?
- What can missions leadership do on-field to support language acquisition at every level?
- What do missions agencies need to require of their missionaries in terms of language acquisition?
- What new resources are available to missions agencies and missionaries when it comes to learning a second (or third or fourth) language?
Dr. Natalie Mullen Leisher is the director of the Institute for Cross-Cultural Training where she works with Christian non-profits and their workers who are learning and teaching languages all around the world. She was an ESL teacher to adults in university settings for over 10 years, specializing in listening, speaking, and pronunciation, and has lived and served in East Asia and Spain. Her doctorate is in Education Policy and her research interests include missionary second language acquisition, missions organization language policy, multilingual populations, language justice and inclusion, intercultural communication, and curriculum and instruction.