I stand at the shore of a language

I stand at the shore of a language foreign to me
Will I ever swim? I must dive in–

I could just stay in the shallows of greetings,
just get my feet wet with politeness—the ocean water is cold.

But the teacher pushes me in.
Phonemes and syllables and words crash over me,
leaving me gasping for which way is up,

and then comes the heavy rush of a salty sea swell,
rough with unknown grammar—suffixes, tenses, conjugations, and

further out I see them coming–breakers over mysterious depths—
nuance, emotion, history, and culture carried in sounds,
the story of a people in their own words.

I must wrestle the waves for some confidence,
and learn their rhythm in time.

As each wave recedes, hope is left in the sand,
a bit more beaten, a bit more polished.

I stand at the shore of a language foreign to me
Will I ever swim? I must dive in.



One of my fears before coming to this new place was that I would fail everyone’s high expectations of me as a linguist learning a new language. It has been so good to finally be starting, to see months stretching ahead of us here & know that there is time, & that we are doing it together. & Even we together are not alone. The preparation for this place He has done for us, some of which we were completely blind to, blows my mind. For example, on the first day of language learning, we were told that French & Arabic are the largest influences on Turkish—the two languages with which I have spent the most time. This poem is what the process feels like, here at the beginning.


6 thoughts on “I stand at the shore of a language

  1. You nailed it again. The sinking feelings of trying something new. The desire to succeed. Just getting started. It will all work out.


  2. Failure would be to not even try. So you cannot fail because you have already stepped into the water and are swimming! Holding the cord!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s