Friday, March 22, 2013

language therapy

confession: (not a surprise to those who know me) after years of living in a militantly french province, i never really learned french :S
came close when falling in love with the music of daniel belanger (even bad google translations of his lyrics can take my breath away), but in the end, not even he could convince me. it's nothing against the culture here, but i always felt like i was going to move on, so didn't want to invest in such a difficult language. also, i could survive without it. resulted in taking on some very interesting jobs...

i used to love languages. as a child i had a go at italian, german, spanish, and later on, thai. would usually manage to get down numbers 1-10, rooms of the house, random pieces of furniture, members of the family (and the all important 'where is the bathroom?' in thai, still waiting to use that).

i don't know what changed. the language path in my brain is well taken over, and requiring a good amount of hacking in the undergrowth to find again.
these are the three stages that inevitably happen.

1: euphoric enthusiasm. accompanied by vivid imaginings of effortless conversation in new language after just a few lessons. quickly followed by...
2. despair. after above delusions are shattered and the realization sinks in how much work will have to be done to achieve the desired fluency, the undertaking becomes huge and threatening. if not a gifted speaker in the first few minutes, why bother trying! after talking myself through that, the most difficult stage sets in.
3. procrastination. always a battle. i guess it comes down to schedule, motivation and self discipline.
will let you know how that some point....

another challenge is speaking. i'm fairly shy, even in my native language. and when an opportunity comes up to strike up a conversation with a spanish speaker in montreal (frequent these days) i will often go blank, and scuttle away before anyone picks up on the tiny amount of spanish in my brainwaves.
but ask me questions in french and i will reply in spanish noooooo problem. (?)

there are some people out there who just love languages, want to speak to anything that moves, and add a new language to their repertoire every year. bored with portuguese, lets try mandarin today! *tears*
i will never be one of these people. but i'm allowed to be jealous....

the thing that helps is that i actually do love spanish. it's a fun language to listen to, fiery and fast, full of emotion and yet guided by some pretty great logic. the perfect mix. i kind of love the music too, it gives me permission to feel all sentimental and mushy. a refreshing contrast to the general cynicism of the northern hemisphere. some words that pretty much sum up spanish music: 'corazon', 'amor' and 'quiero'. throw in 'no entiendo' for good measure. oh and 'baila'.
dancing.... now that's a whole other love :)

i've heard that surrounding yourself with as much of the language as possible will assist the osmosis process. in the meantime, while waiting for The Morning i wake up speaking full sentences from previously watching spanish 'Sesame Street', there are resources for some good ol-fashioned work. the series 'Practice Makes Perfect' has great books, makes learning the written form simple and fast. also, a friend recently introduced me to this website that has a sneaky way of getting you to learn languages by designing it like farmville. except no escaping cows. or whatever farmville has that gets people addicted. if you can get human weaknesses (ie, addictive personality, competition) to work in your favor... i'm all for it!

this is just the beginning of what will likely be a loooooooooong process. future spanish teachers, be warned!

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