Language skills enhance ministry

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Rosetta Stone programs are available to Western Territory officers.

Known for its effectiveness, the Rosetta Stone online language learning program has enhanced the ministry of Salvation Army officers in the Western Territory for several years.

Territorial Commander Commissioner James Knaggs had a vision to expand officers’ capabilities by helping them build skills in a second language, thereby increasing their effectiveness in communities where language barriers may also be barriers to ministry.

For some officers, the new language skills may open up opportunities for ministry in other countries. Others, for whom English is their second language, use the program to enhance their proficiency and confidence in English. Some use it to brush up on a previously neglected second language while some jump in to learn a new language.

Managed through the office of Territorial Education Secretary Major Jeff Martin, the program is delivered online and is available only to active officers. Currently 100 officers are participating; occasionally spaces open up and new students can enroll. Officers can join the list by emailing Martin.

“One of our learners who has made great progress in two languages is [Major] Elizabeth Welch,” Martin said. “She enjoys the Rosetta Stone method of language learning because it…lends itself to different kinds of learners.”

The program’s extended lesson plan provides more repetition and also incorporates writing, which Welch finds helpful in retaining information.

“I always responded well to the old educational adage: “read, write and remember,” Welch said.

As one of the learners enrolled in “Foundations,” a trial version of Rosetta Stone now open to all students, Welch said: “The Rosetta Stone Foundations platform is wonderful–providing games and diverse learning avenues. I really enjoy the reading exercise because it records as I read.  This allows me to listen to myself and compare the audio to the native speaker. The program grades the recording and places marks to indicate areas of difficulty. In addition, the ability to sign up for live sessions allows me to hear others speak. These students are from around the world and I can tell that some are more advanced and others know less than I do.  While I participate, I learn from their successes and mistakes.”

In relation to Salvation Army ministry, Welch finds that it is helpful to speak whatever you can when the opportunity presents itself. While doing some seasonal assistance programs in the Southwest she found that she could speak a little Spanish and some of the clients could speak a little English, leading to conversations often filled with smiles or giggles–and even some help with how to say things better.

“For as long as I can remember, there has always been an overwhelming desire to speak French and Spanish,” Welch said. “I truly believe it is part of God’s will for my life.”

Most students who succeed in language learning try to spend some time with the program nearly every day. Welch said that depending on her schedule, she averages 5-15 hours per week. She said it’s a pleasure.

“I love the program,” Welch said. “I find it challenging and it is a priority.”  

Martin noted that making language learning a priority is really the only way it will happen.

“If a person has a goal that is really important, they will set aside time and energy to meet that goal,” he said. “And that is how it works in learning a new language.”

Although Welch does not feel she has mastered her new languages, she said: “I can say that my life has been enriched by this endeavor and I have truly found it a blessing to participate. Many thanks to Commissioner Knaggs for his commitment to providing this avenue of learning.”

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