A while back, I mentioned to Merindy that triathlon training is a lot like mission training. She was wondering how. Well, triathlon training is like mission training in many ways. I can’t really put all of them together into one post, so I thought I would break it up into different sections. The first one is below.
How Road Biking is Like Learning a New Language
Triathlons are usually made of three parts: the swim, the bike, and the run. The biking part can be done with any bike, and even a low end mountain bike will do. Many of the professionals will use a triathlon bike, which is made specifically for triathlon racing. When I decided to train for a triathlon, all I had was my mountain bike. I thought I would probably just use the mountain bike for the race. When talking with someone who has done a lot of biking, he recommended I get a road bike. While a road bike is not a triathlon bike, it is more versatile for general riding and would do much better in the race than the mountain bike.
In Bangladesh, the people speak Bangla. “Desh” in Bangla actually means “country.” So Bangladesh literally means the country of Bangla speaking people. Bangla is a very old language, similar to Hindi. It has an alphabet, even though the letters look different than English letters. The Bangla alphabet is also usually arranged in a grid, with similar sounding letters next to each other. For example, “d” and “t” are close to each other, because they sound similar. Even in English, we often pronounce “little” as “liddle,” because d and t sound so similar. Bangladeshis are also very proud of their language. Their independence war from Pakistan fought in 1971 was mostly because Pakistan wanted to make Urdu the official language of Bangladesh, and Bangladeshis did not want to change. To give up Bangla would have meant giving up a very important part of their culture.
In preparing for missions, Merindy and I will need to learn Bangla. While we may never become completely fluent, learning Bangla is much more versatile and will serve us better in Bangladesh than English. Bangla is the language of the people. Just like a road bike is much different than a mountain bike, Bangla is much different than English. For the road bike, I had to get a professional fit to make sure I worked well with the bike. I had to get different shoes and different shorts. I had to learn how to pedal differently, how to hold the handlebars, and how to unclip my foot from the pedal when stopping so I wouldn’t fall over when the bike stopped. I had to learn how to use different muscles, and many times the workouts would burn and I would feel uncoordinated. But, I was getting ready for the triathlon.
In learning Bangla, we will need to get a professional teacher and language helpers to help us learn the language. We will need to get different clothes, because what is the fun in learning Bangla if one does not look like a Bangladeshi? We will need to learn to think like children, listening a lot first, then speaking, and then writing. This learning technique is hard for adults, as we usually like to go for the pen and paper first. We will need to learn to use different muscles in our mouths, as the sounds are different in Bangla. And yes, our mouths (and brains) will be sore for a while until we get used to the language. But in the end, we are getting ready for missions in Bangladesh. And what better way to speak to the hearts of the people, than to speak their language.