Language Barriers

by Sharmon Coleman

Do you speak a foreign language? I thought I did until I went on a mission trip to Matamoros, Mexico a few years back. I took Spanish in high school and college, and thought I could at least communicate in short sentences. I quickly learned that I was mistaken when I asked two elementary aged girls for their clothes when I THOUGHT I was asking for their jump rope! Needless to say I had to quickly repair the misunderstanding lest our mission trip land in the ditch.

Speaking the same language is important to prevent conflict and misunderstandings. Just as speaking Spanish CORRECTLY is imperative to be understood by Spanish speakers, so we need to CORRECTLY “speak” each person’s love language. There are 5 ways people receive love which Gary Chapman identifies in his book, The 5 Love Languages which are:

  • Receiving Gifts – Not materialism, it’s the thoughtfulness and effort behind the gift

  • Words of Affirmation – Kind, encouraging words, written or verbal

  • Quality Time – Full, undivided attention

  • Acts of Service – Anything that eases the burden of responsibility, “let me help you”

  • Physical Touch – Hugs, pats, not sexual

Why is it important to learn and apply love languages to those with whom we do life?  

  • LOVE is the foundation to fulfilling your God given purpose. You could be the most talented, gifted person in the world, but it wouldn’t matter a bit if you aren’t motivated by love to use them. 1 Corinthians 13:1 (MSG) says it this way: “If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise.” 

  • LOVE is the only thing that lasts for all eternity. It’s hard to wrap our minds around the fact that we are mortal. We will one day die. How we look, all that we own, all that we accomplish will not last. It ends when we go six feet under. However, the love we bestow on others and the work we’ve done motivated by love lasts forever. 1 Corinthians 13: 8 (MSG) says, “All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever.”

How do you use the love languages to love others? Now we have a “cheat” sheet for knowing how to give love in a way that’s received. Pay attention to the way others express love to you.  Generally, you give love the way you receive it.  You can also experiment and see what makes others “light up”.

How do you discover your own love language?  Take the online quiz, or just think about which of these 5 expressions float your proverbial boat.

I encourage you, as a leader, a boss, an employee, a friend, a neighbor, a wife, and/or mother to take the time to become fluent in these five love languages.  Loving well is foundational to our God-given calling and is the only things that lasts forever.  Beloved, “Above all else, love one another deeply” (1 Peter 4:8).


Sharmon Colemman