Friday, August 30, 2013

Language Learning

One thing we discovered over the past five years is the importance of learning languages. In today's competitive and transient world, one really needs to know more than their native language. I admit before moving overseas I had this notion that everyone could at least understand English, even if they couldn't speak. Boy was I wrong.

Another thing that surprised us was just how many kids could speak multiple languages. Kids who do not have mixed nationality parents. Kids who are not "full-time" expats. We learned kids are like sponges and soak up languages easier when they are younger.  This point was proven to us over and over again.

When we moved to Japan we had this very unrealistic idea that we would leave the country being able to easily speak Japanese. While Emily can speak and understand it pretty well, they rest of us left with what I like to call "survival Japanese".  Japanese is hard. Like, really hard. It takes alot of effort and I really think total immersion to learn it. While I took lessons the whole time I lived there, I reached a point that to progress any further something different needed to happen.

We have made a family goal now that we are back in the states, to all learn Spanish. Our hope is someday we all will be fluent. Emily and Chris started taking Spanish at their school in Japan. Matt and I both took it in high school and I tested out of it in college. My mother taught high school Spanish and my Aunt has lived in Venezuela for over 40 years (I spent the summer before college visiting). So besides Sami, we all have a basic understanding and some background, although Matt and I are pretty rusty.

All three kids are taking Spanish here in school. So it is Matt and I that need to really buckle down and get our feet wet. I am not a Rosetta Stone fan, although we do own the ridiculously expensive program. I have been downloading apps on my iPad. I have thought about taking a class at the local community college, but what I think we really need is to concentrate on the immersion factor. No, we won't be running off to South America quite yet, but I think finding someone to come speak with us may be key. There are many, many options here for listening on the radio and TV (Spanish infomercials are almost as funny as Japanese ones). Trying to incorporate it around our house. Finding ways to make learning fun for all of us and not so "school-like".

I would love to hear from people who have learned a language as an adult. How did you do it?  What advice and suggestions do you have?  In the meantime, I am thinking the best place to start may be with the words margarita and enchiladas.

1 comment:

Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane said...

I've learned a few survival sentences in several languages, and then forgot them. I am bi-lingual Dutch/English, but really learning another language takes effort and works best when actually living in the country where it is spoken. I am now learning French and it's not easy although I can mess around in it on a survival basis. Along with spending time in France, I'm using and like it much better than Rosetta Stone (which I tried for Italian a few years ago). Babbel uses a monthly charge and can be canceled any time so it won't cost a fortune if you decide not to continue with it.

Good luck with your Spanish! At least in the US there are various opportunities to use it and get practice / lessons.