One-third listening; two-thirds waiting. Imagine you’re teaching in a classroom and for every 10 seconds that you talk you have to pause for 20 seconds as your students sit there and wait for more. That means you’re only teaching for one-third of the time you have with your students. And if you’re a student that means you have to fight the temptation to drift off and zone out for two-thirds of the time you’re sitting in class!
This is just a taste of the challenge we friendly counselors in India face with our students for each seminary class we teach. There are 22 official languages in India. The students at the CELM Seminary primarily come from the regions of Andhra Pradesh (and Telangana) and Madhya Pradesh, where the primary languages are Telugu and Hindi, respectively. Since our students come from the lower, Christian castes their English level is often not very high. This means that, if we want to teach them about being shepherds for God’s flock, the English sentences we speak have to be translated into both Telugu and Hindi for each class. One-third listening; two-thirds waiting.
Two-thirds listening, or even one-hundred percent listening in a second language? The friendly counselors and their wives try to overcome this great challenge in a few ways. One way is by offering English classes. Teaching English to the students slowly increases that 1:2 listening to waiting ratio over their time at the seminary. And God willing, by the last few years of classes they’ll be able to learn in English-only classes. While it would still be using their second and not native language, it does give our counselors more class time to teach them God’s Word. This also allows the students to use the numerous English resources available for Bible study and to converse more with the counselors on a deeper personal level.
One-hundred percent listening to a non-native speaker? Conversing with the students both on a personal level and in class without a translator is the ideal situation for the friendly counselors. Because of this, the counselors are also in the process of learning the Indian languages. While this presents its own immense challenges, it provides another opportunity to improve that one-third listening amount. It also equips the counselors to respond better to questions asked in class and during study periods.
One-hundred percent listening to a native speaker? That’s the goal. In order to get there the seminary is using a method that has already been mentioned: providing in-class translators. How does that overcome the current listening-to-waiting ratio? If members of our national faculty do the translating then it allows the seminary to transition better to national-led classes in the future. The faculty members doing the translating are then, in essence, auditing the classes and preparing themselves to teach the class in the future. This naturally leads to the ultimate goal: seminary classes in India being led and taught by Indians. One-hundred percent listening; no time waiting.
With God’s help, the friendly counselors in India are overcoming the three-language challenge more each year. Once one-third listening becomes one-hundred percent listening, the Lutheran pastors in India will become more effective pastors and evangelists. That means not only will there be more listening and learning in the CELM seminary, but someday there will be even more voices singing and praising God in heaven whatever their language on earth may have been.
Brock Groth, Friendly Counselor to India
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