“My love for languages and my love for travel really go hand in hand and feed off of each other. There’s no better way to learn a language than by immersing yourself in a culture where it’s spoken, and there’s no better way to immerse yourself in a culture than by learning to speak the local language.”
First and foremost.
I do not plan out my posts; when I get the urge to write I just write and let it flow. It’s either that or I’d never write anything. Prepare to read a short story. Lol
I have the great pleasure of being born and raised in South Florida, a very multi-cultural area. I do not remember the first time I started to study a language exactly; it could have been in Preschool, Pre-K or Kindergarten (peers chatting amongst ourselves). However, I do know Kindergarten is when a foreign language, Spanish (Cuban Dialect), was first taught to me officially. I loved every moment of it, mainly because it was fun and immersive, not tedious and boring as many school lessons are. My school was very diverse. We had people from around the world and first generation American children that still spoke their family’s tongue there. Not one kid, that I remember, hated that.
I attended ASP (After School Program) during my elementary school years. On certain days we would have our “language” days in the auditorium with Mr. C* ( I am leaving out names) and at least one more counselor, whose name I do not recall. They’d provide some kid-friendly Spanish shows (I think it was a series on VHS). Then, we’d sing, play games and more. Soon, we were having talent shows where some of the Brazilian children danced and sung along to “Xibom Bombom” by As Meninas (Portuguese). This song quickly caught on with the rest of the children and, soon, we were learning the lyrics and choreography to that. Not too long after this we started learning Sign Language in my Arts class for a show we did in the library. My aunt let me borrow her book “The Joy of Signing” by Lottie L. Riekehof and we began learning to sign “You Light Up My Life”, Debbie Boone’s version. The next two languages to learn was French (with friends that were learning it) and one I am forgetting. I think it was Italian! I do not know why or where Italian came from , but I think it had to do with me already learning other languages in the Romance family.
Did I continue with these languages?
Yes, but on and off throughout the years. This was mainly due to changing schools, which I hated for numerous reasons, and then the painful teen years of trying to find my place in life. Cringe. In high school I studied Spanish and it was then that I came to despise learning any language in a classroom room setting; it felt too forced, too structured and too boring for the adolescent mind. On top of this, I had to learn the Spaniard dialect of Spanish instead of the Cuban dialect. It wasn’t at all what I was used to. I had a much more progressive time with the friends I practiced Spanish with. I still practiced Brazilian Portuguese, but not as much as before.
When I got out of high school, I found myself speaking a lot more Spanish with a few people, some were from Puerto Rico, some from Mexico.
I say this because there tends to be a speaking difference, from what I’ve seen and heard, between those that are raised here in the US and those that move here from their homelands. When I got out of high school, I found myself speaking a lot more Spanish with a few people, some were from Puerto Rico, some from Mexico. Oh, the dialects I had to learn! So, here it goes: when I was with all of PRs I had to learn how they spoke Spanish. When I was with all of the Mexicans I had to learn their dialect. When everyone was together it was Puerto/Mexican. This taught me a lot about the language and culture differences, how they maintain some piece of their homeland with them and some word differences that can get you in trouble; a word in one dialect of Spanish might not mean the same thing in another dialect.
Time for a change.
By this point I was beyond bored studying the same languages and needed something new (to be fair I’d dropped all, but Spanish and Portuguese). So, I decided to visit my local library to see what I can find. It was then that I came across Pimsleur Language Programs and I love it! I don’t remember what language it was that I came across, but I think it was Farsi (Persian). Why Farsi? Why not? I found some other books, CDs and a cassette tape of a few languages that I was interested in, so I checked them out and brought them home.
By studying with Pimsleur I came to realize that some languages I do better with immersing myself in the culture (Spanish), some I do better with audio (Farsi, German) , others writing down (Russian, Greek) and some a combination (Italian, Portuguese). When it comes to learning to have a conversation in any language I will, hands down, always reach for Pimsleur, always. It sticks to me better because the really break the word pronunciations down and slowly. Not only that, but I can listen to this anywhere.
How has this helped me in life and in my travels?
Well, I am not sure when I first decided to learn German, but I do remember using a bit of it at a couple of former jobs of mine in my late teens. I used a tad French at one point, but this was for flair with some tourists. This is what made me want to start learning more languages, but alas, I felt stuck and like I couldn’t learn without others. Still, I pushed onward. Right now, I am at a comfortable spot in my life where I feel ready to really master other languages that I am studying, partly for job/business-related reasons, but because everyone has a story to tell and I’d like to hear it. I talk to everyone and I’d like to be able to have an intelligent conversation with others in a foreign language and not sound a like a drunken duck stumbling on/slurring their words.
One thing that has stuck with me is that if I am going to visit another country I’d better know at least a few words and phrases of the that country (and area, if it’s populated by another culture). This, in my opinion, is a sign of respect to the citizens there and a lack of arrogance, of my part. How does arrogance come into this? By expecting others in their own country to know my language and getting frustrated when they don’t. I have found the locals to be extremely grateful for the effort, no matter how much I butcher the words and are more than willing to lend a helping hand in the language. It seems as if they get more excited than I do! It is a blast and I highly recommend others giving this a try.
On my travels, I mainly used either Spanish, Italian and English. When I was in El Salvador I had to be on my toes, nerves be damned! I remember a lady asking me how to get to her hotel room because the hotel we were in was like a maze, I am not kidding you. Like, they could really make that place into a haunted house and make people feel trapped in there.
I spoke the most Italian during my 2018 study abroad trip. The classes were immersion-based, which was fantastic, and I was immersed in the culture big time. Best experience of my life and I can’t wait to go back.
What does the future hold for me?
In the future, I’d love to get paid to travel and share my world experiences with others, as well as encourage them to try new places and things. I’d, also, like to do language-learning seminars, not only for English speakers, but for others in other languages. This means becoming fluent in all of the languages I am and will be learning. I truly love traveling, learning languages and sharing my tips with others. I am a drifter, after all; staying in one place for long is a bit too boring for my taste and lifestyle.
I will be doing a post in the future about the different language-learning programs I have used and the pros and cons of each.
Languages I have studied:
- American Sign Language
- Chinese (Cantonese)
- Chinese (Mandarin)
- Egyptian Hieroglyphics
- Farsi (Persian)
- Haitian Creole
- Hebrew (Biblical)
- Irish Gaelic
- Japanese (Kanji, Katakana, Hiragana)
- Portuguese (Brazilian)
- Portuguese (European)
- Spanish (Cuban Dialect)
- Spanish (Spain)
The list goes on, but you get the gist.
One last tip!
Do not wait for someone else to study a language with! If you wait for someone else you’ll always be waiting. The time is now, not tomorrow. Do you know someone close to you that doesn’t want to teach you their language? Go out and learn it, anyhow. Only you are holding yourself back. If you can read this blog you can learn a language. Go for it, I have faith in you!