The greatest challenge of this year is at the doorstep: mission simulation. This week we’ve been setting up big army tents and starting from tonight we are confined to the terrain at the back of the campus for the coming five weeks.
Just about everything we learned over the past 9 months will be relevant, but the main focus will be on three aspects. Firstly, it will be five weeks of teamwork. Up until now we’ve merely been class mates, but in mission sim we will be dependent on our team mates. In fact, we will be living with our team mates!
Secondly, it forces us to live with the challenges of reduced technology. Our electricity will come from a single solar panel connected to the main tent. Apparently this will give just about enough power for our entire class, and on cloudy days we are expected to turn down our laptop’s screen brightness as much as possible.
Thirdly, our main task during the day will be to practice language learning techniques. Over the past two weeks we had classes on language learning techniques. And, as one might expect, these are nothing like the techniques commonly used in high school.
Traditional language learning methods focus on memorising paradigms of verb conjugations and lists of words without context. But when actually in conversation with someone, it is near impossible to speak from lists. It is far more effective to learn usable phrases that are connected to what one sees, does, and experiences.
This also ties in with the number one most effective language learning tool: immersion. Living in a place where you are forced to use the foreign language just to communicate will always be more effective than merely sitting at a desk with a book in front of you.
So, what about mission sim? How will we handle language learning there? First of all, it remains a simulation. Complete immersion with a few hundred native speakers of a non-European language involved is not possible in rural England. Instead, we will have two speakers of our target language, with whom we get to spend two hours a day.
However, even though our simulation has its limits, we should be able to make good progress. Our two language helpers will speak their Ivorian language (that is, from Côte d’Ivoire) whenever their with us. They might throw in the occasional French word, as it is the national language of Côte d’Ivoire. But, other than that, we will have to deal with them pretending not to speak a single word of English. Though, thankfully they will still understand our English, just not speak it when responding to us.
- Thank God for all the good lesson modules we’ve had the past nine months.
- Thank God for the set-up of the mission sim camp, which has gone well.
- Pray that the time in mission sim will be useful, that all three learning goals will get attention: simpler living, language learning techniques, and above all, teamwork.