Saturday, October 27, 2007

Spanish Lessons

I didn’t start studying Spanish until I was in my 40’s. It took me that long to realize that the rest of the world speaks several languages, while we Americans are struggling with one.

I had to go to a third world country to find that out. As I sat by the pool in my lounge chair I watched a little 4 year old boy from Venezuela talk to his mother in Spanish, turn around and talk to me in English and talk to someone else in Papamiento (the language of Aruba). That same evening I met an Aruban teacher who told me that they start to teach their children foreign languages in the home long before they go to school. And then in school, as a natural part of the curriculum, some classes are taught in English, Dutch, Spanish, French or Papamiento.

I thought ..”What’s wrong with this picture????” Are we living in the dark ages in the states???? Not only do we struggle with one language, we arrogantly expect the rest of the world to speak English for our convenience, even when we are in their country.

I took a Conversational Spanish class at a local community college with my husband and daughter. They dropped out after the first semester and I was on my own. I kept going back to classes off and on for a few years.
Then I joined a conversation group for a while and went on to private lessons.
So started my love affair with the Spanish language and all things Spanish and Latin American.

Learning a language can be fun and interesting. And studies show that because we create new brain cells and a new area in our brains to store our new language that it is a good way to keep ourselves mentally sharp and young. Woohoo!!!…nice added bonus.

After years of studying, I am now just about fluent in Spanish. I no longer take classes, but I keep the language alive by reading daily in Spanish and emailing my penpals from all over the Spanish speaking world. Anyone learning Spanish can try Lingolex. It is a English/Spanish language exchange. You can find penpals that are learning English and email each other correcting each others mistakes. It is wonderful to have friends all over the world and I have personally met 7 of my penpals from Spain, Argentina, Chile. I still keep in touch with most of them.
And of course, my favorite way to keep the language alive is traveling through Spanish speaking countries.

Hasta Luego
Gypsy Girl


Yogamum said...

I agree about learning languages. I am fluent in Spanish (I'm married to a Venezuelan of Spanish origin) but shamefully we are not doing such a great job of teaching our kids Spanish. I didn't know about Lingolex -- that looks awesome!

Gypsy Girl said...

Yogamum thanks for the comment.
I think it is an "American" thing with us...."English is the international language, so why bother learning any other"
My daughter and my 11 year old twin granddaughters speak fluent German. She taught them from birth and continues with German lessons each day. And we are not even German!!
I taught Spanish in our local elementary schools as an after school program and was amazed to see that some native Spanish speaking parents would bring their kids to my class to start learning at age 9 or 10. So, don't feel bad about not teaching your kids is not uncommon, but it is a tragedy for the kids to lose that part of their heritage.

Gartenfische said...

I was once fairly fluent in French, but not anymore. I wish I had taken Spanish, instead (but my father, in his wisdom, forbade us to take Spanish in school--yes, he really did).

I was talking with a friend the other day about this tendency of Americans to not focus on learning other languages. For Europeans (and, I'm sure many others), it's not unusual to learn to speak several languages. For one thing, we Americans have the idea that it's really HARD to learn another language, which doesn't help.

Good for you for committing to this.

Gypsy Girl said...

There is an old adage that I heard in my Spanish class...."If you speak 3 languages you are tri-lingual, if you speak 2 languages you are bilingual and if you speak 1 language you are an American"

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