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Nahuatl Mission Accomplished


Another language mission has come to a close: Conversational Nahuatl in Four Months!

I was travelling in a Nahuatl-speaking part of Mexico during the last week of November, and based on how well I met my goals, I would say it was a success. I wasn’t too sure before the trip–my plans to speak Nahuatl with my neighbours every other day fell apart as more pressing duties commandeered my time, but nevertheless I can say that my experience in Mexico was very much enhanced by my speaking Nahuatl.

One of my goals was to preach a sermon in Nahuatl, and that was accomplished in La Soledad, Mpio. Tamazunchale, S.L.P. I relied quite a bit on my outline and notes, but when I think about it, it was comparable to the first time I preached in Spanish, and I believe that the message from God’s word was heard and understood.

I had a few minor goals as well, and one was not met, but the main one, although nebulous, was to be able to speak Nahuatl at a “conversational level.” I define this as being able to carry a conversation beyond “Hi, how are you?” I did this, and I was able to visit with several elderly people in Nahuatl. Although I did not understand everything they said, it was enough to carry on the conversation. Some of these people spoke very little Spanish, and all of them were more comfortable speaking Nahuatl, so I say that that part of the mission was accomplished.

The people’s reactions were priceless. From the day we arrived, my Nahuatl-speaking friends declared to others “He speaks Nahuatl!”, to which I mildly protested, but nevertheless everyone was quite impressed, and wanted to know how I had learned it. You see, it is very rare for a non-speaker to learn the language, much less a foreigner! And so I am content.

One of the milestone goals of the mission was to interview a native speaker, which I accomplished about a month before the trip. Unfortunately I do not have subtitles, but for the interested among you, you can watch it here:

“So what now?” you may ask. Well, my next language mission begins in January, in which I will devote all my language-learning energy to Korean! However, my Nahuatl is kind of in a volatile spot right now–I can speak it fairly well, and I know lots of vocabulary. However, I’m not fluent yet, and the language is not internalized where I could resurrect it at will. Plus, I want to keep up my friendships with my Nahua neighbours. So, I’m setting a goal for myself of taking time to speak Nahuatl every week (and this does not count casual greetings in passing). Hopefully that will keep Nahuatl fresh on the brain, while allowing me to pursue Korean.

This was a great language mission, and totally worth it! I hope it inspires you to take on a mission of your own, whether it be to learn a language, to learn a craft, to write music, whatever. With enough want-to, you can accomplish almost anything!

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