Mission Callings
Chapter 7: Learn Your Mission Language

“Chapter 7: Learn Your Mission Language,” Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ (2023)

“Chapter 7,” Preach My Gospel

globe and flags

Chapter 7

Learn Your Mission Language

Consider This

  • How can I strengthen my faith in the Lord to help me learn a new language?

  • Why should I continually improve my language abilities?

  • How can I improve my ability to speak and teach in my mission language?

  • How can I obtain the gift of tongues?

Prepare Yourself Spiritually

The Lord declared, “Every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:11).

Listed below are ways you can strengthen your faith that the Lord will help you teach and testify in your mission language:

  • Believe that you have been called of God by a prophet.

  • Ask for God’s help through sincere prayer.

  • Work diligently by studying, practicing, and using your mission language each day.

  • Be worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost by keeping the commandments and living the missionary standards.

  • Purify your motives by loving God and by loving His children and desiring to bless them.

Be Dedicated and Diligent

Learning to teach effectively in your mission language requires diligent effort and the gifts of the Spirit. Do not be surprised if the task seems hard. It takes time. Be patient with yourself. As you dedicate yourself to learning the language, you will acquire the skills necessary to fulfill your purpose as a missionary.

You are not alone in learning your mission language. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will help you as you seek Their help. Seek and be open to the help of your companion, members, those you teach, other missionaries, and other people.

Listen carefully and speak the language at every opportunity. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone who learns a new language makes mistakes. People will understand, and they will appreciate your efforts to learn their language.

Keep improving your language skills until the end of your mission. As your ability to speak the language grows, people will listen more to what you say than to how you say it. You will be less worried about how to communicate and better able to respond to the needs of others.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“We would … hope that every missionary learning a new … language would master it in every way possible. … And as you do so, your [teaching] and testifying skills will improve. You will be better received by and more spiritually impressive to [the people you teach]. …

“Don’t be satisfied with what we call a missionary vocabulary only. Stretch yourself in the language, and you will gain greater access to the hearts of the people” (Jeffrey R. Holland, missionary satellite broadcast, Aug. 1998).

Continue to use your mission language after you return home. The Lord has invested much in you, and He may have uses for your language abilities later in your life.

Learn English

If you do not speak English, you should study it as a missionary. This will bless you during your mission and throughout your life. Learning English will also bless your family.

For more help in learning English, see EnglishConnect for Missionaries.

woman writing in journal

Principles of Language Learning

Take Responsibility

Set goals for improving your language ability, and adjust them regularly. Create a language study plan. Use the language at every opportunity.

Make Your Study Meaningful

Apply what you study to real-life situations and in your daily activities. Focus on language that will help you say what you need to say.

Seek to Communicate

Speak the language with your companion as much as possible. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn and practice. For example, you might ask a returning member or someone you are teaching to help you with the language. There is no substitute for talking with native speakers of the language.

Do Not Compare

Do not compare your language skills with those of your companion or other missionaries. Comparison leads to either pride or discouragement.

Learn New Concepts Thoroughly

Review regularly what you have studied, and practice it in new situations. This will help you recall and apply what you are learning.

man looking at book

Create a Language Study Plan

A language study plan helps both new and experienced missionaries focus on what they can do each day to improve their ability to speak their mission language. Your plan will include what you will do during your language study time and throughout the day.

The following steps show how you can create a language study plan by using the goal-setting process from chapter 8. Adapt this process as needed.

  1. Prayerfully set goals and make plans. Set weekly and daily goals to improve your general ability to communicate and teach the gospel. Include things that you want to commit to memory, such as words, phrases, scriptures, and passages.

  2. Record and schedule. Decide which language tools will help you achieve your goals. Language tools could include the scriptures, dictionaries, grammar books, the TALL Embark app, and others. Schedule times when you will formally study and use the language. For example, you might schedule to read aloud from the Book of Mormon for 15 minutes each day during lunch.

  3. Act on your plans. The Lord loves effort, so work diligently to accomplish your goals. Protect your language study time and reschedule it for later if conflicts arise.

  4. Review and follow up. Review your study plan often to evaluate how well it is working. Invite your companion, mission leaders, members, and others in your area to suggest ways you can improve. Participate in regularly scheduled language assessments to chart your progress and identify ways to improve.

Balance your language study between long-term goals for creating a language foundation and short-term goals for specific activities and people you are teaching.

During your formal language study time, balance your goals and plans across the basic areas of language shown below. Decide what you will learn throughout the day.

listening skills

reading skills


speaking skills

writing skills


Personal or Companion Study

Take time each week to evaluate your language study by asking the following questions:

  • Did I study my mission language each day this week? What can I do to consistently improve my mission language?

  • Is my plan helping me find, teach, and work with members better? What adjustments do I need to make to my plan?

  • What do I enjoy most about my language study? What can I do to enjoy it more?

  • How much time should I be spending to practice listening, reading, writing, and speaking? How can I better learn vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation?

  • What activities and resources am I using to study the language? Which ones are helping me most? What other resources or activities might be helpful?

  • What needs more attention?

After answering these questions, adjust your study plans and see if they improve your results. The Spirit will guide you as you continually seek to improve your language study.

Learn with Your Companions

Help your companions experience success and gain confidence in learning the mission language or in learning English. Sincerely and frequently compliment your companions and other missionaries on their progress.

Provide simple and practical feedback with kindness. Give them many opportunities to teach and testify successfully. Note how a more experienced missionary helped his companion in the following true account.

I had just arrived in my second area when my companion told me it was my turn to give the spiritual thought at a dinner appointment. My first companion had always been happy to do the teaching, and I was used to giving my small portion of the lesson and then listening.

I tried to convince my companion that he should give the spiritual thought, but he encouraged me to take the assignment. I practiced with his help.

When the moment arrived, I opened my scriptures and read from 3 Nephi 5 and 7. I struggled but managed to explain why I felt my chosen passages were significant, and I was relieved when I was done. When a question was asked, I looked to my companion to answer, but he didn’t open his mouth. That was when I amazed myself by coming up with an answer in understandable French. I was even more amazed that the member didn’t seem to sense that I was insecure about my communication skills. I gained confidence and realized that my French was better than I gave myself credit for.

The weeks passed, and my companion continued to let me teach—even when I didn’t think I could do it and even though he probably wondered if I could do it. I felt that I had become a tool of our Father in Heaven instead of simply being a quiet companion.

Personal or Companion Study

Work with other missionaries to help you learn your mission language.

  • If you are working with a new missionary, how can you better help your companion learn the language or learn English?

  • If you are a new missionary, what kind of help might you ask from your companion?

missionaries teaching woman

Culture and Language Learning

Culture and language are closely related. Understanding the culture of the people will help explain the way language is used. This understanding will also help you communicate the unique aspects of the message of the Restoration in a way that will be clear to people.

One of the greatest things you can do to gain people’s trust and love is to respect and embrace their culture in appropriate ways. Many great missionaries have done this (see 1 Corinthians 9:20–23).

Personal or Companion Study

Use the idea below to help you prepare to teach someone who has a different culture or background.

  • Think about the cultural and religious background of the people you teach. Identify an aspect of their background that might make it hard for them to understand a principle of the gospel. Plan ways to teach this principle clearly.

The Gift of Tongues

Gifts of the Spirit are real. The gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues have many manifestations. Some of these include speaking, understanding, and interpreting languages. Today the gift of tongues is most often manifested in Spirit-enhanced learning and studying to help missionaries learn the language in their mission.

The Holy Ghost can manifest the truth of your testimony even though a language barrier may exist between you and those you teach. Likewise, the Holy Ghost can bring words and phrases to your remembrance and help you understand what people are saying from their hearts.

For the most part, you will not obtain these gifts without effort. You need to actively seek them to bless others (see Doctrine and Covenants 46:8–9, 26). Part of seeking the gift of tongues is to labor and do all you can to learn the language. Be patient as you prayerfully study and practice the language. Trust that the Spirit will help you as you make a diligent effort. Have faith that you can have the gift of tongues help you and those you teach.

When you struggle to express yourself as clearly as you would like, remember that the Spirit is able to speak to the hearts of God’s children. President Thomas S. Monson taught:

“There is one language … that is common to each missionary—the language of the Spirit. It is not learned from textbooks written by men of letters, nor is it acquired through reading and memorization. The language of the Spirit comes to him who seeks with all his heart to know God and keep His divine commandments. Proficiency in this language permits one to breach barriers, overcome obstacles, and touch the human heart” (“The Spirit Giveth Life,” Ensign, June 1997, 2).

Personal or Companion Study

Use the following statements to evaluate your efforts to seek the gift of tongues. Record impressions and goals to help you improve your language learning.

Ideas for Study and Application

Personal Study

  • Review the language resources on Missionary Portal. Identify something you haven’t tried, and set a goal to try it for the next few days.

  • At your next district council, ask an experienced missionary with good language ability what he or she has done to learn the language.

Companion Study and Companion Exchange

  • Practice teaching each other the missionary lessons in your mission language. At first, new missionaries might teach very simply, share simple testimony, and recite memorized scriptures. As their confidence and ability increase, they will be able to participate more fully in teaching.

  • Review the ideas in this chapter and the language resources on Missionary Portal. Discuss which suggestions you could use in companion study during the next week.

  • Ask your companion to listen to your pronunciation and help you improve. Ask him or her to take note of situations when you are not understood. Make a list of words, phrases, or grammar that would help. Explain and practice how to use what is on the list in upcoming activities.

  • Practice actively listening. Plan a time during the day to listen actively to identify vocabulary and patterns you have learned. When you hear a phrase expressed differently from the way you would say it, write it down and practice it.

  • Make a list of things people might say that day. Plan and practice ways you could respond.

District Council, Zone Conferences, and Mission Leadership Council

  • Invite native speakers to attend one of these meetings. Arrange for the missionaries to teach them in small groups. Ask the native speakers to take notes and give feedback on the missionaries’ language ability.

  • Assign one or two missionaries ahead of time to tell about successes they have had in studying the language.

  • Assign an experienced missionary to briefly present some part of the language that is usually difficult for missionaries. Have him or her present examples of good language use, and have the missionaries practice them.

  • Have missionaries who are native to the culture share their insights.

Mission Leaders and Mission Counselors

  • Emphasize the importance of consistently studying the language each day.

  • Encourage missionaries to use the mission language as much as possible.

  • Provide elements of a mission language study plan in a systematic study schedule. Review this in district council meetings.

  • Look for opportunities to talk with missionaries in the language they are learning. Periodically interview them in this language.

  • Ask local leaders and members for ideas on how missionaries can improve their language ability.

  • Give instruction in zone conference or mission leadership council on the most common mistakes made by missionaries who are learning your mission language.

  • Teach missionaries about spiritual gifts.

  • Observe missionaries when they teach in the mission language.