..But.. How do we know when we're being diligent? ..What is diligence again?
Elder Doyle, an Elder we live with, once said that "Diligence is an outward expression of our inner devotion". I'd say that falls in line pretty well with what Elder Chow said to me many moons ago. That, and if you go back to PMG on page 121 it reads, "Diligence is steady, consistent, earnest and energetic effort in doing the Lord's work.". I'd say 'diligence' could take on hundreds of different definitions, all relating to the specific task at hand - about learning a concept, overcoming an obstacle, studying the language, etc In the words of Elder Chow, "Keep your feet moving!" and "Don't plateau" were phrases that he'd often say, and in turn helped me personally understand diligence.
Third PMG reference comes from page 128, in the third paragraph. There, it says,
"Strive to master the language throughout your mission and after you return. The Lord has invested much in you, and He may have uses for your language abilities later in your life." Elder Jeffrey R. Holland then expounds, "We would hope that every missionary learning a new proselyting language would master it in every way possible. And as you do so, your proselyting and testifying skills will improve. You will be better received by and more spiritually impressive to your investigators. Don't be satisfied with what we call a missionary vocabulary only. Stretch yourself in the language, and you will gain greater access to the hearts of the people.”
When I hear E. Holland say "don't be satisfied" - I think of climbing to the top of a tremendous mountain. Hiking and ascending to the top.. never being content with anything but my goal of reaching the peak. I think that's what Elder Chow meant when he advised me to never "plateau". On a mountain, as you work towards the peak, of course you'll get tired, and there will be places to rest for a moment as you overcome different "peak experiences" on your way. However, on a plateau, there aren't any "peak experiences". There is no ascension at all after a certain point, and no where to go but.. well, where you've already been. A plateau provides nothing but rest. A sign of loss dedication, drive, and yeah -- you guessed it, diligence.
So, with that in mind, there are a few principles to language learning (and just progressing/diligence in general; feel free to replace 'language' with something else you'd like to improve on) that can help us climb our mountains - and avoid taking the far too anticlimactic "plateau" route.
If you want to regularly and consistently improve, you will need to regularly and consistently create or adjust your language study goals and plans, and strive to use the language at every opportunity.
If it doesn't mean much to you, you'll never really use or learn it, right? Ask yourself, "Why am I studying this?" "How will it help me communicate better?" Relate what you study to real life situations and daily activities. Be real with yourself.
If you never speak.. or never try to speak, you'll find yourself on the oh so exciting flat of our friend Mr. Plateau. Take advantage of your opportunities! Don't be afraid of failure or correction -- they are two of the best methods for improvement and success! Find a balance between studying the structure of the language, along with speaking the language throughout the day.
..The more you practice, the better you get! They say it takes 600 hours of speaking a language to gain "adequacy" in the language. ...So, start now, and start doing it right!
" 20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you."
Become as them, so you can understand, and gain them!Finally, remember that the glorious "Gift of Tongues" is yours, but will not come without effort on your part. Though I promise and know that if you work hard with dedication and diligence to learning the language, you WILL receive it.
with all of that said,
All the love,