Buongiorno o buonanotte, depending on where you are in the world! Today is my second day attempting to learn Italian. It’s going surprisingly well! I am using an app for the iPhone called Duolingo, a very interactive app that has you speaking, reading and writing right from the get-go. I took four years of Spanish in high school, and I think I have learned more Italian in two days using this app than I learned in my first two years of Spanish in school. There are a number of contributing factors why school failed me in my grasping of the Spanish language, but I think the most important reason is the lack of constant interaction. Learning a new language is really difficult, especially when teachers assign vocabulary lists with 40 words and expect you to memorize them for a quiz. I’m sorry, but that is not an effective way to learn anything.
Trying to learn Spanish in school just instilled doubt in my abilities to master another language. That’s sad, isn’t it? I decided to give it another shot, and I am so glad I did. In just two days I have learned the basic words for different types of food, and a couple of romantic pickup lines! (I had to touch on the most important subjects first, of course.) All day at work today I was looking forward to getting home and getting back at it. I never thought learning a language would be fun. At the rate I’m learning, Italy is going to be seeing me sometime soon!
A great deal of my inspiration to learn another language came from an article I read recently about how Americans are “linguistically challenged”. I am ashamed to be among the American snobs who think that English is the superior language, and that everyone in the world should just learn English. This idiotic notion is slowly putting our youth at a disadvantage in the job market. With business and communications between different countries at an all time high, those with bi-lingual capabilities are much more likely to be successful. It’s not just the individual’s fault, but also the educational system, as I mentioned before. Isn’t there something wrong with the fact that I am raving about an iPhone app that has taught me significantly more Italian than a classroom setting would have? You would assume with a teacher as a resource and a guided class structure, learning a language would be easy. Apparently, we need to rethink our foreign language education. I’m not the only one who realizes it isn’t working. How many times have you heard “Well I took Spanish all through high school but I don’t remember any of it.”? Yeah, me too.
In high school, the school district I lived in had about 10 schools, each with a “specialty center”. I happened to attend the school that offered a foreign language immersion program. This program would force students to take normal classes, like P.E. or Geometry, while only speaking a foreign language. I used the word “force” because when you know a limited amount of a language, it is very uncomfortable to have to learn geometry while only using that language. I had many friends suffer through this very situation. As difficult as it was, they came out on top. They are now fluent in a foreign language. I wish more than anything that I could go back in time and enroll in the Spanish immersion program, but as they say, “You live and you learn, or you just die ignorant” (people say that, I promise). I think that every student who wants to learn a language should be put through this rigorous system as opposed to just taking a specific Spanish class. Bring that argument up to a school board representative and I guarantee you they will shake their heads with a sad smile and say that “The budget can’t sustain it”. My high school, which was the only school in the entire district to have foreign language immersion, had to cut the French program due to low enrollment numbers and budget issues. However, they always seemed to find the funds to allow every student a laptop to loan during the school year.
It’s never to late to acquire a new skill, old dogs can learn new tricks! Pick a language and give it a shot, I dare you.