Monday, November 26, 2012
Do you speak more than one language? How did you learn the additional languages?
yes, i do.
i learned english as my primary language, though i guess people would call it “pidgin english” really. i wasn’t super bad but i know i didn’t know good grammar until later on.
my mother’s degree is in spanish; she even went to live in mexico for a while. so as we were growing up, she often taught us spanish phrases–and, of course, there was sesame street that would have some segments in spanish. when i got to high school, i decided i was going to take spanish; i had planned to go out-of-state for college, and i thought spanish would be good to learn for that. plus, i had my own help at home! 🙂 i took 3 years of spanish in high school.
i decided to “at first” attend the local college, and transfer later. i had to take an entrance exam for spanish so they could put me in the correct class level. i apparently did very well in the class (i always did like languages) and was told that i could take higher level 3rd year classes. since my university only required up to 202 (2nd year), i thought, well, if i take 1 3rd year class, that’ll prove that i can do up to 202, and i’d only have to take one class then (if i wanted to), instead of 4. so i signed up for a writing-intensive (hey, i loved writing!) spanish literature class. holy moly! biiiiig mistake. i was the lone freshman in a class full of upperclass spanish language majors. my teacher was from colombia, so when she spoke, she rattled off so quickly, that my poor 3rd year high school ears that only heard spanish from non-native speakers (not counting sesame street, but, of course, they spoke slowly) could not keep up. after totally bombing on my first writing assignment (she totally didn’t get my idioms that i used–she thought i was being literal. my fault.), i went to her asking to drop the class. she wouldn’t let me (probably because we had started as a class of 20 and it was down to 5). so i labored through, even when we did spanish poetry–poetry!!! i have a hard enough time with english poetry!!!–and completed the course, mostly because i think she felt sorry for me, so gave me breaks. anyway, that was my very last experience with spanish, save for the occasional dora and my trip to texas, where it came handy hearing what people thought of me. 🙂
so after that first semester of my freshman year, i decided i was done with languages. however, i was really into hula at this time. we had been traveling and dancing in competitions, and i was just in love with the language and dance, so i thought, well, since i’m dancing to these songs, i might as well know what they mean! right? so during the summer between my first and second year of college, i took the intensive hawaiian language classes–4 hours daily of language immersion (my teacher did not believe in pencils–she would remark that the paper is the smart one. we had to learn auditorily). and i absolutely fell in love with the language. i went on immersion retreats. i went to the weekly chats they had at the beach. i hung out with them every friday night to listen to local musicians. i learned and learned and learned. by the end of my time at college, i decided that i would then become an immersion teacher, and pass on what i have learned and what i loved dearly to the next generation, as cliché as that sounds.
i also ended up at a school where they were doing weekly japanese classes as part of the curriculum. so i would watch the tapes with my son, who was 2 at the time. so he and i learned japanese together. not enough to converse with anyone, mind you, but it was just enough to learn vocab here and there. that’s one language i regret not learning, because i was pretty much surrounded by it–my mom’s side only spoke a japanese-okinawan mixture. but because my mom was forced to go to japanese school every day after regular school, she hated it, and she refused to speak it to us. i guess they all did, because when she and her siblings went to high school, instead of taking japanese, which you know would’ve been an easy a for them, they all took spanish or french! i guess, anything to be more ‘american,’ which is sad to me. oh, well. it’s one language that i would like to learn, but from what i picked up from the tv lessons, i’m thinking it’s very complicated, and i would probably have a hard time. i think all i’m really fascinated with with the language is the writing. i would love to learn how to write all those letters. that would be so cool.