Book review – Language Learning in Ministry: Preparing for Cross-Cultural Language Acquisition

Reviewed by Nathan Keller

The International Daniel Training vision of OMF states, “In order to fulfil our overall vision, we see our members at home in their host culture, effectively relating to and serving alongside their focus people, performing with competence in culture and language.” Learning the language of the people we minister to in cross-cultural ministry is both a vital and important undertaking that our organization is highly committed to.

Jan Dormer has been involved in many aspects of language learning: learning a new language as a missionary kid, learning another language as an adult missionary, studying and teaching TESOL, and completing an EdD in Language Education, just to name a few.  Dormer’s vast experience and thorough research inform the insight that she brings in this book.

In personal email correspondence, the author wrote, “A goal I had in writing this book was to look at acquiring a new language in ministry both positively and holistically, but also realistically. Rather than thinking of learning the language as a year or two before ministry, think of it as a life-long privilege within ministry. Rather than thinking of it as something the adults do, think of how it can positively impact the whole family. Challenge will definitely be a part of the journey. But this book can provide practical steps and resources for facing the challenges and experiencing success.”

The first two chapters of the book deal with misconceptions and principles of language acquisition. Chapters three and four explain the differences and key elements of formal and informal language learning. Chapter five gives helpful insight into language acquisition for missionary kids. Chapter six demonstrates how ministry can co-exist with language learning. The final chapter is a useful summary of the whole book. The book concludes with six helpful and practical appendices related to language acquisition.

I would highly recommend this book for those who are committed to the task of learning a language for the purpose of ministry and for those who coach them along the way. It can be read before language learning begins and referred to time and time again along the process.

​​​​Language Learning in Ministry: Preparing for Cross-Cultural Language Acquisition
By Jan Edwards Dormer. Littleton, CO: William Carey, 2021.

ISBN 978-1-64508-323-8. 149pp.

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