No Habla Español o Parla Français

June 30, 2011 at 7:36 am | Posted in Life and Living | 2 Comments
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When I was in middle school, I had the opportunity to take both a Spanish and French class. The purpose of this was too choose a language I wanted to continue to take throughout middle school and high school. It didn’t take me long to realize that Spanish was the right road for me. Even back then there was talk about Spanish becoming a dominant language in America and I was going to be prepared. Little did I know that I would fall in love with the language, speak it very well, only to lose it all.

Learning language aligns directly with my love of writing. I wasn’t the type of student who took on extra credit or really did anything more than I needed to to get good grades (hey! I had a life to live) but I actually voluntarily handed in extra credit assignments for Spanish — I translated Alanis Morrissette songs. I just loved the language, and was lucky enough to have two great teachers that made it easy to learn. My high school teacher taught me Spanish all four years, and when it came to junior year and I was a hair away from qualifying for the Advanced Placement course, I went before a committee to fight for my opportunity, and won.

My ability to speak, understand and write Spanish was validated in a way when I took placement tests for college. I received 6 college credits just from taking the test, which I breezed through. But when it came time to sign up for my classes, they told me that I would be starting at the junior level, and as a freshman in my first term, I couldn’t take a Spanish class. This was the beginning of the end of my Spanish career. By the time second semester came around, the damage had already been done. I did end up struggling through a Spanish minor with classes that were filled with native speakers and readings in 19th century Spanish literature, but my ability to communicate in Spanish has jumped ship.

Nowadays, I can understand some Spanish and speak a little, but not the way I used to. If I were in a situation where I had to use it, it would come back, I’m sure. But it wouldn’t be easy. But in America, nearly everyone speaks English. It’s not like in Europe where most people speak two or three languages. So I don’t foresee an emergency situation while I’m in the homeland.

Instead of taking Spanish my freshman year, I took Linguistics, where I learned that the ideal time to learn a new language is between the ages of 3 and 11. While this may be true, if you are immersed in a language, you will likely learn it no matter your age. The challenge is keeping it.

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  1. I was in French immersion for 10 years, I can barely understand anyone speaking French anymore. When I moved to TX and was exposed to Spanish, some French came back as I tried to learn a new language. It was Franglish. I have books and CDs that my bi-lingual Hubby bought for me, I have no inspiration to learn tho! (sigh) One day, probably soon, I will have to learn more because my kids will be taking it in school. We (as in Americans) should learn more languages in school, like in Europe. Mandarin is another language we should be learning too.

    Great post, very thought provoking 😉

    • That’s the whole thing. We should be learning more languages, but what’s really the point when we won’t use them regularly? It’s quite a predicament. I don’t think our country will ever be like Europe in that regard, not until we really blend our cultures beyond the point of recognition. 🙂


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