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Are Latter-day Saint missionaries the fastest language learners?


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I am not sure if the OP title actually was the intended question or theme for this thread but here's my .02 anyways.

I have two sons who served foreign language missions, who went through the MTC and who have also gone on to be linguists in the military. They both experienced language training through the church and the military and both have commented how much more intensive and difficult the military instructions was compared to the MTC. This makes sense because the focus in the MTC is more on speaking than reading, while for the military both are emphasized.

In my experience the church program has a variety of results. I remember feeling comfortable in my new language (Spanish) after about 6 months but had companions who never seems to quite get it. Most missionaries I encountered on my mission got to a point where they were proficient in speaking their new language, but not all.

The military on the other hand does extensive testing for candidates eligible for their language program and even they have a significant dropout or failure rate.

So in answer to the OP, I would say that LDS youth are no more or less capable than others when it comes to learning a language.

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If it's not the LDS missionaries then it's the US Diplomatic corps.
And then of course there's Europe where most nations are bilingual at least from childhood.

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23 minutes ago, JLHPROF said:

If it's not the LDS missionaries then it's the US Diplomatic corps.
And then of course there's Europe where most nations are bilingual at least from childhood.

....and now that second language worldwide is often American. ;)

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I wondered about the MTC language training, and being in awe at their learning so quickly, but then thought, well...it may be because of living at the MTC and all their time with it, but that would apply to those that live at home and do it online I'm figuring. It's that their whole attention is on it, and they are pretty much held accountable if they don't show up to learn the language and they've been set apart as missionaries. Their total focus is on that language training and the training for being a missionary, so that may be why it's so successful. 

Edited by Tacenda
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11 hours ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Our son begins his missionary service next Monday with an at-home MTC experience preparatory to his assignment. So I have set for myself a goal to learn Spanish over the next two years, perhaps to be able to converse with him in that language when he returns. 

This goal has taken me to the Duolingo app on my iPhone, which, in turn, took me to YouTube, where I ran across this superb account of the Church’s language-training techniques for its missionaries, this (presumably) from the perspective of an informed and friendly non-member of the Church. I very much like his intelligent, informative and accurate approach. 

It takes me back to my days as a missionary serving in Sweden and makes me marvel that I had the fortitude to get through it — or that any young man or woman in late-teenage years does, for that matter. 

Check it out. 

 

 

I came across this video several weeks ago and commented on it:

Quote

Interesting commentary. Olly's reference to the Defense Language Institute was interesting to me since I attended it to learn Russian prior to attending the MTC to learn some Mandarin and then going on to serve a mission in Taiwan. A few thoughts on the two approaches:

1. Both DLI and the MTC were pretty intensive. The Russian Basic Course at DLI was 12 months long, five days a week, about 8 hours of class per day. As Olly notes, the MTC was 9 weeks, with about 9 hours of daily training, most of which was language training.

2. Both DLI and MTC are all-encompassing. At DLI I lived on the military base (the Presidio of Monterey in Monterey, California), lived in barracks (like college dorm rooms), wore a uniform when on duty (in class was "on duty"). The daily schedule was quite regimented. The testing was pretty intense, and a substantial percentage of each class failed and were cycled out. The teachers were mostly civilians who otherwise would be teaching college-level coursework.

The MTC was also a 24-7 kind of thing. I lived at the MTC (in college-like dorms), wore a "uniform" (Sunday clothes), had a regimented daily schedule. But though the experience was intense, it was also . . . nice. Everyone there wanted me to "win," to succeed in learning the language, work hard, keep the faith, and go on and be a good and effective missionary. Life at DLI was a bit more adversarial, more "You better keep up with the curriculum or else we'll cycle you outta hear and send to to clerk typist school."

3. I think the MTC students, in the main, were a bit more self-motivated than the DLI students.  Ostensibly everyone there was attending by choice, and as an expression of faith and religious devotion, and desired to contribute to and build up our community, to devote 18-24 months of their lives to pure service of others.  At DLI there was more of a mixed bag.  To be sure, there were plenty of people there who had joined the military as an expression of patriotism and a desire to serve their county.  But there was also some measures of malaise, an "I'm just here to punch the clock, do my time, get my GI Bill benefits and then move on" sort of attitude.

Overall, I think the willingness and ability of students at both the MTC and DLI to foster selflessness, to focus on a larger goal, to contribute to something important and greater than the individual, tended to really help the individual work harder at mastering the language instruction.

4. I am very grateful for my experiences at DLI and then at the MTC.  Serving my country in the military and then my church as a missionary made me a better person.

It sounds like the MTC has improved its language instruction even further than when I went many years ago.

Thanks,

-Smac

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1 hour ago, CA Steve said:

I am not sure if the OP title actually was the intended question or theme for this thread but here's my .02 anyways.

I have two sons who served foreign language missions, who went through the MTC and who have also gone on to be linguists in the military. They both experienced language training through the church and the military and both have commented how much more intensive and difficult the military instructions was compared to the MTC. This makes sense because the focus in the MTC is more on speaking than reading, while for the military both are emphasized.

In my experience the church program has a variety of results. I remember feeling comfortable in my new language (Spanish) after about 6 months but had companions who never seems to quite get it. Most missionaries I encountered on my mission got to a point where they were proficient in speaking their new language, but not all.

The military on the other hand does extensive testing for candidates eligible for their language program and even they have a significant dropout or failure rate.

So in answer to the OP, I would say that LDS youth are no more or less capable than others when it comes to learning a language.

I took my thread title from the title of video I linked to. My intent was largely to draw attention to the video. 

Did you view it? It is not solely about the aptitude of young Latter-day Saint missionaries. I’d say it is more about the effectiveness of the training and experiences they undergo and the results that are achieved. And while it is hardly surprising that some would be more successful than others, the creator of the video makes a solid case that broadly speaking, the Church’s techniques are consistently successful, as they have proven to be over many years. 
 

Moreover, there is something of an apples-to-oranges nature in your comparison. Those who receive linguistic training in the military are highly focused from the get-go. Missionaries, on the other hand, are plucked from everyday life when they are scarcely out of high school, not necessarily intending or even knowing whether they will be acquiring a new language and, within a matter of weeks, are on the street of a strange land not only conversing with but trying to teach people in an unfamiliar language and convert them to a new faith. 
 

The whole thing is so commonplace to us that I think we have largely lost sight of how remarkable it all really is. I found it enlightening to view it through the eyes of an informed outsider, one who apparently specializes in language training and who obviously has made a diligent and thorough investigation into the language-learning experience of typical Latter-day Saint missionaries. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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9 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I came across this video several weeks ago and commented on it:

It sounds like the MTC has improved its language instruction even further than when I went many years ago.

Thanks,

-Smac

I regret having missed your earlier posting but am glad now, having found the video on my own, to have your insights about it, especially with your experiencing firsthand both military and MTC language training experience at approximately the same stage in life and thus being in a unique position to compare the two.  

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10 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

I regret having missed your earlier posting but am glad now, having found the video on my own, to have your insights about it, especially with your experiencing firsthand both military and MTC language training experience at approximately the same stage in life and thus being in a unique position to compare the two.  

When I said I commented on the video, I commented on YouTube, so it's no wonder you did not see it previously.

Thanks,

-Smac

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16 minutes ago, smac97 said:

When I said I commented on the video, I commented on YouTube, so it's no wonder you did not see it previously.

Thanks,

-Smac

Ah! I feel vindicated now for my lack of awareness. 
 

I commented and linked the video on Facebook, so between the two of us, we are giving it considerable exposure. 

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My first companion in the LTM at Provo had a real hard time learning Spanish. They finally changed his mission to Hawaii . Boy was I tempted to start faking trouble with Spanish. My advantage was that I had taken 3 years of French in high school so I was having no problem with the grammar and verb conjugation rules. Turns out that my son went to Hawaii for his mission. Funny that ! 

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On 9/22/2021 at 10:21 AM, smac97 said:

At DLI I lived on the military base (the Presidio of Monterey in Monterey, California), lived in barracks (like college dorm rooms), wore a uniform when on duty (in class was "on duty"). The daily schedule was quite regimented. The testing was pretty intense, and a substantial percentage of each class failed and were cycled out. The teachers were mostly civilians who otherwise would be teaching college-level coursework.

I know this is a completely irrelevant reply to your excellent post, but it took me back many years. Sometime in the nineties I was responsible for creating a physical plant management structure for the conversion of a significant part of Fort Ord into Cal State University, Monterrey Bay. I don't know if any of your training took place at Fort Ord outside of Monterrey? It was one of the weirdest episodes of my life.

Fort Ord was deserted, overgrown with weeds, and completely like something out of The Twilight Zone. I remember traveling all over that property and thinking that it was the greatest example of what it might be like in the days after the rapture. Empty swings in empty playgrounds in empty apartment complexes were emptily eerie. I spent a whole summer of my life there working on that design. I have often wanted to go back and see whatever became of that part of Fort Ord and how many of the old buildings remain. I found the project very fulfilling, but also very strange! Sorry for the digression. Oh, and thanks for the memories!

Edited by Navidad
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17 minutes ago, Navidad said:

I know this is a completely irrelevant reply to your excellent post, but it took me back many years. Sometime in the eighties I was responsible for creating a physical plant management structure for the conversion of a significant part of Fort Ord into Cal State University, Monterrey Bay. I don't know if any of your training took place at Fort Ord outside of Monterrey? It was one of the weirdest episodes of my life.

I never went to Ford Ord, as when I was there (1991-92). it was in the process of being shut down.

17 minutes ago, Navidad said:

Fort Ord was deserted, overgrown with weeds, and completely like something out of The Twilight Zone. I remember traveling all over that property and thinking that it was the greatest example of what it might be like in the days after the rapture. Empty swings in empty playgrounds in empty apartment complexes were emptily eerie. I spent a whole summer of my life there working on that design. I have often wanted to go back and see whatever became of that part of Fort Ord and how many of the old buildings remain. I found the project very fulfilling, but also very strange! Sorry for the digression. Oh, and thanks for the memories!

My dad went to Fort Ord as part of his training as an Army National Guard medic in the late 60s.

I had a somewhat similar experience in Ogden, Utah many years ago (1996, I believe).  I went to some language training at the Defense Depot - Ogden ("DDO"):

Quote

Prior to the establishment of what was known as the Utah General Depot on September 15, 1941, the underlying land was used for pasture and farmland. The Defense Depot Ogden Utah (DDOU) was one of seven similar facilities located around the nation. The property entered the ownership of the United States Army, under the command of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), an agency of the Department of Defense (DOD). The DDOU was used as logistical supply and administrative support for military installations and other DOD and federal agencies. The mission included the receipt, storage, maintenance, inventory and issue of items that included food, clothing, textiles, packages, petroleum products, pesticides, pressurized gases and general medical, industrial, construction and electronic supplies.

During World War II, the DDOU was also used as an internment camp for both German and Italian prisoners of war.

The Depot had an Officers' Club that allowed Department of the Army civilian employees to enjoy the facility. A set of military houses between the front gate and the Officers' Club made it feel like a neighborhood. There was also an AAFES store, as well as clothing sales. The commander changed from one service to another with each change but the commander was always a pay grade O-6 colonel or captain.

The DDOU was listed in the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) of 1995. As a result, the base ceased its functions on September 30, 1997. Management of the facilities was then handed over to the Hill Air Force Base DLA, at which time the official name of the facility changed to Defense Depot Hill Utah (DDHU) Ogden Site.

As early as 1995, the City of Ogden appointed a committee to research the development of the DDHU. Much of this work was towards the conversion of the area into a commercial and industrial park. The Ogden Local Redevelopment Authority (OLRA) is charged with ensuring that the City of Ogden's DDOU Reuse Plan is properly implemented. The transfer of ownership was completed in 2003, giving the facility to Ogden City.

After nearly ten years, and at the expense of $115 million, the DDOU/DDHU became the Business Depot Ogden (BDO). The transition from a former military installation to a commercial park involved many changes to the street layout and buildings.

The local Ogden newspaper, the Ogden Standard-Examiner, moved into a remodeled administrative building in the northeastern side of the BDO, investing in a new and much larger printing press for the new facilities.

The facility was almost entirely vacant.  It was weird to walk around and see huge industrial buildings with nobody in them.

Thanks,

-Smac

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11 hours ago, strappinglad said:

My first companion in the LTM at Provo had a real hard time learning Spanish. They finally changed his mission to Hawaii . Boy was I tempted to start faking trouble with Spanish. My advantage was that I had taken 3 years of French in high school so I was having no problem with the grammar and verb conjugation rules. Turns out that my son went to Hawaii for his mission. Funny that ! 

Didn't he have even more difficulty learning Hawaiian? :huh: :unsure:  I mean, ya gotta pronounce all of them vowels! :unknw:  [Badum-pum, psssssssssh!] ;):D 

¡No me di cuenta de que hablas español, hermano!

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The video seems dated at least a few years, missionaries now use phones and tablets with the ability to connect to the internet and social media platforms, but generally yes the training happens very quickly.  learning a new language effectively, although not perfectly, within 6 to 9 weeks.  effective enough to share the gospel with people and pray with others in their newly learned language.  the military language training program is something like 60 weeks, much longer than MTC training.  i appreciated the way this guy presented what he was sharing.

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I have learned/taught languages (category IV and V, https://effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide/language-difficulty/)  at the MTC, BYU, Department of Defense and the Foreign Service Institute. (FSI). It all boils down to the motivation and capacity of the learner. MTC is not the gold standard. We were taught to memorize certain tracks, prayers, etc. The main focus of our time there was the language part and we were very motivated with a short time to learn how to share the gospel, we could barely do anything else. Hands down the best training i received was at FSI. The instructors were top notch, the training had clearly defined goals and check points. And, the quality of the participants was second to none. If you want to get humbled, join the Foreign Service.

I had to relearn all my mission language in the field. I had a trainer who pushed and forced me into uncomfortable situations, but it helped me learn. The language i heard and spoke in the MTC was not the language I heard on the streets in my mission. Well, I guess it was the same language, but I sure didn't seem like it was. 

I don't think you can really compare the MTC to other language training environments. Soldiers leaving the initial course have been exposed to a completely different focus on vocabulary, plus they also have to worry about their military duties. There tend to be pulled in different directions, especially once the finish their initial training. 

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7 hours ago, Snodgrassian said:

I have learned/taught languages (category IV and V, https://effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide/language-difficulty/)  at the MTC, BYU, Department of Defense and the Foreign Service Institute. (FSI). It all boils down to the motivation and capacity of the learner. MTC is not the gold standard. We were taught to memorize certain tracks, prayers, etc. The main focus of our time there was the language part and we were very motivated with a short time to learn how to share the gospel, we could barely do anything else. Hands down the best training i received was at FSI. The instructors were top notch, the training had clearly defined goals and check points. And, the quality of the participants was second to none. If you want to get humbled, join the Foreign Service.

I had to relearn all my mission language in the field. I had a trainer who pushed and forced me into uncomfortable situations, but it helped me learn. The language i heard and spoke in the MTC was not the language I heard on the streets in my mission. Well, I guess it was the same language, but I sure didn't seem like it was. 

I don't think you can really compare the MTC to other language training environments. Soldiers leaving the initial course have been exposed to a completely different focus on vocabulary, plus they also have to worry about their military duties. There tend to be pulled in different directions, especially once the finish their initial training. 

How long ago were you at the MTC? 
 

And you said you had “learned/taught” languages and then named several places, but it was unclear whether you had done one or the other or both at the MTC. Which is it?

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I was at in the MTC 20ish years ago. I taught at the MTC, BYU and for the Department of Defense. I really enjoyed teaching. The MTC was the most difficult environment for me to teach in, though the students were the best behaved LOL. Military students were my favorite, plus I had way more control over the curriculum. 

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I'm not sure about the home MTC/online MTC. My son was in Norway long before Covid hit, but he had the pre-MTC online stuff. He, and others didn't find it very helpful. My parents also had online MTC instruction in Polish and Czech before their missions, and they weren't very keen on it as far as helping them. The kids who have full online or part online MTC haven't seemed like they gained the same language "proficiency" as when it was 8-10 weeks of full in-person --- either to me, or to them, based on how they felt about it. 

I put quote marks around "proficiency," because the MTC doesn't approach that. It does give missionaries a solid foundation in a matter of a couple of months. The real language proficiency takes off in the field, to the extent that missionaries put effort into it. It doesn't seem to me that modern missionaries still study and practice grammar and more complex usage daily as part of their morning study, but there is a big difference between those with average mission proficiency and those who seek to really become good at it. 

I've taught German for six years, and if I could do it over, I would have started with German 20 years ago. Such a blast! --- and, I get really good students who choose to take it. It's fun watching highly-motivated students take off and soar to great heights (I have gold, silver, and bronze medalists every year on the National German Exam, and I've had students selected by the German government for all-expenses paid summer trips to Germany. Pre-Covid, of course). I will say that the MTC system (the "grüne Ungeheur," or "green monster" --- maybe other languages had different colored books?), which was developed by RMs for missionaries, has proven to be a very good, logical way of learning grammar, usage, and vocabulary. I use that (sans religious content) with my students, for an hour a day instead of 8-10. I think the "MTC way" is good for its purpose --- getting missionaries ready to enter the field. Naturally, everyone talks really fast in real life, but you rapidly get used to it, pick out words and phrases, and it gets better and better over the coming weeks. Eventually, you start dreaming in the language, and you stop translating in your head and it's instant and effortless. 

I tell my students, when we're doing audio or video exercises, that this is exactly what it's like if they were to be air-dropped in and left to their own devices. You don't understand everything at first, so you pick out what you know and work with that. Kids get excited when they can hear and recognize things --- especially in hard dialects. 

My uncle was an Arabic linguist in the army, and he passed for Syrian when he had a dark tan. He also served French-speaking. I should ask him how he would compare MTC vs. military language training. 

I really like this talk from BYU professor Dillworth Parkinson:

https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/dilworth-b-parkinson/received-need/

He makes several points that related to this discussion. 

"To be perfectly honest, teaching a foreign language to adult learners is just about as frustrating as learning one is. We are a profession with an almost spectacular level of failure. Large numbers of bright-eyed, excited students enter our classes every semester, eager to “learn Arabic” or some other language, but despite our best efforts something doesn’t click with a good percentage of those students, and they end up quitting at some point well shy of reaching their goal . . ."

"Direct teaching and learning of the facts about the language has limited usefulness in actually learning the language. This realization dawns on students slowly, and at first it can even anger them. When they have put in hours memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules, they really expect there to be an immediate payoff, but it doesn’t happen that way . . . it goes well beyond that to being able to understand and use the language like a native speaker does in real time and in authentic cultural situations . . ."

"Students often feel frustrated and feel they are not making progress. The students who eventually do make the break to a kind of fluency, however, are the ones who throw themselves into these activities and simply try to communicate with abandon, working around and through their frustration until a breakthrough finally comes. There is a kind of mystery involved here: moving from a theoretical knowledge to a practical one, figuring out how to develop those habits of tongue, mind, and heart that allow them to function as native speakers do. It is not a direct process . . ."

"The second frustration of adult language learning I would like to refer to is the dawning realization that comes to honest learners—even after they are very good at the language—that there is an almost infinite amount left to learn. Even very fluent speakers are constantly made aware of how imperfect their accent is, how many words they still don’t know, how awkward their constructions are, and how unnatural their production is. The gulf between even a very proficient speaker and a native speaker seems huge . . ."

"One of the clearest results of language teaching research is that when a student becomes satisfied with what he knows, when he feels he “knows the language,” he almost immediately ceases to make progress. We call this the “returned-missionary syndrome.” Missionaries become fluent and proficient in their language in a very limited sphere. Unfortunately, many of them decide somewhere deep within their souls that they know enough that they don’t need to know any more. They come home and enter our classes and don’t make progress; they already know enough. They are seemingly oblivious to all the things they don’t know, both in the overt know-that sense and in the know-how sense—becoming more like a native speaker . . . Returned missionaries who manage to keep in mind how little they know and how much they have still to learn end up being the ones who make the most ultimate progress and find the most joy in the journey. Being reminded of the huge gulf between one’s own language abilities, no matter how advanced, and those of a native speaker appears to be a prerequisite for further progress."

---

 

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12 hours ago, rongo said:

"One of the clearest results of language teaching research is that when a student becomes satisfied with what he knows, when he feels he “knows the language,” he almost immediately ceases to make progress. We call this the “returned-missionary syndrome.” Missionaries become fluent and proficient in their language in a very limited sphere. Unfortunately, many of them decide somewhere deep within their souls that they know enough that they don’t need to know any more. They come home and enter our classes and don’t make progress; they already know enough. They are seemingly oblivious to all the things they don’t know, both in the overt know-that sense and in the know-how sense—becoming more like a native speaker . . . Returned missionaries who manage to keep in mind how little they know and how much they have still to learn end up being the ones who make the most ultimate progress and find the most joy in the journey. Being reminded of the huge gulf between one’s own language abilities, no matter how advanced, and those of a native speaker appears to be a prerequisite for further progress."

For what it's worth, I loved the Language Training Mission for what it did for me as a German-speaker, and for the training as a missionary. Not to mention the maturing of my testimony.

I could speak better German than any of my companions after my trainer. It came pretty easily, a blessing that I was born with. One thing I did that helped me make strides was to read Jesus the Christ, by Talmage, in German. My German copy got seriously marked up with yellow hilighter for all the new words I encountered. "Es ist eine geschichtliche Tatsache..." is how it opens. But the further I worked through the book, the fewer and fewer yellow hilights there were.

During my mission, I never stopped learning new vocabulary and grammar, though it did slow down over time. By the time I left my mission, my German accent was pretty good, but not native. A couple of days before I went home we stopped at the local Konditorei that we frequently bought from, and told the two ladies there that I was going home to the US. They were surprised, because from my accent they had thought I was Swiss. After returning, my father was curious as to how well I spoke German, so he had one of his coworkers, who was native German, call me on the phone to speak to me and give his evaluation. My Dad said his coworker told him that he could tell that I wasn't a native speaker, but said that if hadn't already known my nationality, he wouldn't have been able to place my accent.

In a way I do have the "returned missionary syndrome", in that I didn't make much further progress, but I managed to keep most of my fluency, I think. Not long after returning from my mission I joined the US Army, and they sent me to Germany for my last three years of service. Just before moving there, I married a German lady I met in Augusta, Georgia, and coincidentally got stationed in her mother's home town! My mother-in-law liked to joke that I didn't speak German, I spoke Kauderwelsch, but everyone else seemed to think I spoke the language well. Oddly, my wife and I mainly spoke English with each other, because she preferred English.

I've never had my knowledge of German formally evaluated, so I don't know how well or how badly I can speak it or read it. But I never needed to speak German after leaving Germany as a soldier back in 1983. The language was kind of dormant in me for decades. Now that I live in the UK, I'll have more opportunity -- in fact my new (British) wife and I visited Austria in 2019 for a week (my German wife passed away a few years ago), and it seemed that I was able to jump right in to the language with little trouble. 

I think I've done myself a disservice by not improving on my capability in this area.

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35 minutes ago, Stargazer said:

In a way I do have the "returned missionary syndrome", in that I didn't make much further progress, but I managed to keep most of my fluency, I think.

I think the so-called “returned-missionary syndrome” is not so much a self-satisfied attitude of “I know enough,” but more a matter of life’s priorities competing for our time and attention. For most of us, there is not and probably never will be a practical need to go on and gain greater proficiency in our mission language, especially if it’s one that only a relatively small portion of the world’s population understands, like Swedish. 
 

So improving your mission-language proficiency thus becomes an avocation or a hobby. And how many of us are in pressing need of more hobbies to occupy our lives? 
 

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1 hour ago, Stargazer said:

I could speak better German than any of my companions after my trainer. It came pretty easily, a blessing that I was born with. One thing I did that helped me make strides was to read Jesus the Christ, by Talmage, in German. My German copy got seriously marked up with yellow hilighter for all the new words I encountered. "Es ist eine geschichtliche Tatsache..." is how it opens. But the further I worked through the book, the fewer and fewer yellow hilights there were.

During my mission, I never stopped learning new vocabulary and grammar, though it did slow down over time. By the time I left my mission, my German accent was pretty good, but not native. A couple of days before I went home we stopped at the local Konditorei that we frequently bought from, and told the two ladies there that I was going home to the US. They were surprised, because from my accent they had thought I was Swiss. After returning, my father was curious as to how well I spoke German, so he had one of his coworkers, who was native German, call me on the phone to speak to me and give his evaluation. My Dad said his coworker told him that he could tell that I wasn't a native speaker, but said that if hadn't already known my nationality, he wouldn't have been able to place my accent.

In a way I do have the "returned missionary syndrome", in that I didn't make much further progress, but I managed to keep most of my fluency, I think. Not long after returning from my mission I joined the US Army, and they sent me to Germany for my last three years of service. Just before moving there, I married a German lady I met in Augusta, Georgia, and coincidentally got stationed in her mother's home town! My mother-in-law liked to joke that I didn't speak German, I spoke Kauderwelsch, but everyone else seemed to think I spoke the language well. Oddly, my wife and I mainly spoke English with each other, because she preferred English.

I've never had my knowledge of German formally evaluated, so I don't know how well or how badly I can speak it or read it. But I never needed to speak German after leaving Germany as a soldier back in 1983. The language was kind of dormant in me for decades. Now that I live in the UK, I'll have more opportunity -- in fact my new (British) wife and I visited Austria in 2019 for a week (my German wife passed away a few years ago), and it seemed that I was able to jump right in to the language with little trouble. 

I think I've done myself a disservice by not improving on my capability in this area.

"Jesus der Christus" (Immo Luschin translation; yours was probably Johann Wondra, or maybe Max Zimmer) was also very helpful in modeling advanced, sophisticated grammar. Germans were very impressed with anyone who was good at subjunctive 1, adjective endings, etc. 

I have heard often that natives think I am Swiss as well. At least I wasn't an obvious Ami ("der spricht als hätte er einen Kartoffel im Mund"). :) 

15 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

I think the so-called “returned-missionary syndrome” is not so much a self-satisfied attitude of “I know enough,” but more a matter of life’s priorities competing for our time and attention. For most of us, there is not and probably never will be a practical need to go on and gain greater proficiency in our mission language, especially if it’s one that only a relatively small portion of the world’s population understands, like Swedish. 
 

So improving your mission-language proficiency thus becomes an avocation or a hobby. And how many of us are in pressing need of more hobbies to occupy our lives? 
 

German, Spanish, and French are easier to find "Gesprächspartner" than other languages. My son's Norwegian is really good. He reads a lot (he sent home box loads of books from used bookstores) and listens to the radio, but it's hard to find people to talk to. I had him call me during my 4th hour class so he could speak Norwegian with my Swedish exchange student (and he spoke Swedish). It actually worked really well for both of them. Finding people to practice with will take effort, though. 

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30 minutes ago, rongo said:

"Jesus der Christus" (Immo Luschin translation; yours was probably Johann Wondra, or maybe Max Zimmer) was also very helpful in modeling advanced, sophisticated grammar. Germans were very impressed with anyone who was good at subjunctive 1, adjective endings, etc. 

I have heard often that natives think I am Swiss as well. At least I wasn't an obvious Ami ("der spricht als hätte er einen Kartoffel im Mund"). :) 

German, Spanish, and French are easier to find "Gesprächspartner" than other languages. My son's Norwegian is really good. He reads a lot (he sent home box loads of books from used bookstores) and listens to the radio, but it's hard to find people to talk to. I had him call me during my 4th hour class so he could speak Norwegian with my Swedish exchange student (and he spoke Swedish). It actually worked really well for both of them. Finding people to practice with will take effort, though. 

He must be really good. The Nordic languages are dissimilar enough that I struggle when communicating with Norwegian, Danish or Icelandic speakers. 

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1 hour ago, rongo said:

"Jesus der Christus" (Immo Luschin translation; yours was probably Johann Wondra, or maybe Max Zimmer) was also very helpful in modeling advanced, sophisticated grammar. Germans were very impressed with anyone who was good at subjunctive 1, adjective endings, etc. 

I have heard often that natives think I am Swiss as well. At least I wasn't an obvious Ami ("der spricht als hätte er einen Kartoffel im Mund"). :) 

Pretty sure that Immo Luschin wasn't the translator of my version of JdC. I served 1972-74; he hadn't yet translated the Book of Mormon into German -- we had to make do with a translation I wasn't particularly fond of. There were a few questionable passages that did not match well with the English. There was one in particular, a passage used in teaching investigators, that wasn't correct. Unfortunately I can't remember which passage this was.

Incidentally, the church doesn't use the Luschin translation of the Book of Mormon any longer. I'm not sure why that is, because I liked that translation. The newest translation was published in 2003, and thought I have a copy I haven't yet spent any time with it. I have no idea who translated it. Perhaps @Dan McClellan could comment?

Also incidentally, I just checked and Brother Luschin passed away in 1998 at age 79. See ancestors.familysearch.org. There's a story in the page, it goes:

Immo Luschin Military Experience

Immo was in the Gebirgsjäger of the Wehrmacht and fought in myriad locations in World War II, from Crete to Finland. Immo marched to Paris during the occupation. One night during the march, he held onto the saddle of his officer's horse, and managed to continue walking while he was asleep. During a firefight in Crete, Immo and an Allied soldier shot at each other from across a river, hunkered down. Neither managed to kill the other. Years later, at the meeting held for all temple presidents (13 at the time), Immo seemed to recognize one of the brethren present. After a brief exchange, the two realized that they had fought each other all those years ago. Once, a commanding officer told Immo, "Luschin, Sie schießen wie eine Sau, aber gut." "Luschin, you shoot like a sow, but well." (Note that the expression "saugut" is a casual idiom that means very well.) During the war, Immo felt that if he would keep himself sexually pure, that he would be protected to survive the war and have a son. He was clean and had a happy marriage.

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