Spouses and apprentices included, we have 13 people on our GFM staff right now. Language learning is always one of the biggest challenges for any cross-cultural missionary, and it certainly doesn’t happen by accident. We have recognized the need to take an active role in the language learning of our staff. Over the past several years, we have been developing ways to help them learn Spanish and to hold them accountable for doing so.
In the past year, this led to the development of periodic Spanish evaluations. Each staff member is evaluated once every 4 months, until he or she has reached Level 3 or higher on the LAMP language/culture scale. The idea behind the evaluations is to give us a regular check of each team member’s Spanish ability. Based on that check, we then develop a Spanish learning plan for the coming four months for each staff member. The Spanish plan is tailored to help them in the areas they most need to work on.
So today we had our trimester evaluations. Each staff member did several exercises and was graded on them by the Spanish committee. The Spanish committee was made up of Grant and Jenn Haynes (our directors), a local Mexican woman, and a gal from our missionary training school who is Mexican and speaks fluent Spanish. The exercises were as follows:
- Read aloud a couple of pages from a book in Spanish.
- Give a 5-minute sermonette on one or two of the main commands that Christ gave.
- Translate, line by line, a monologue given in English into Spanish.
- Describe, in English, a dialogue in Spanish between the two Mexican women.
- Dialogue with the local Mexican woman, answering questions she asks.
- Do a written evaluation, consisting of translating English sentences in to Spanish.
Through the above exercises, each staff member is evaluated in 5 areas: Extent of vocabulary, grammar, accent, fluidity, and listening comprehension. The Spanish committee scores the person on a 1 to 10 scale in each of the 5 areas. This gives us a somewhat objective record that we can compare from test to test to see what sort of progress the staff member is making. So goals are set according to the evaluations, accountability is based on the goals, and progress is measured through the ongoing evaluations.