Although I decided (almost twenty years ago) to learn Spanish, I really haven’t made it past a few rudimentary phrases and words. I bought a dictionary, but couldn’t spell in Spanish. Oh, sure, I could get by for a little while with “Donde esta los banos” and “como se dice…” (it’s likely I didn’t spell even one of those words correctly), and then smile, shrug, and say my one word or two that might apply. But I really thought I wanted to speak a foreign language. I haven’t even come close, nor have I really tried.
I checked out tapes from the library once, but never did get around to listening to them.
You know the set-up and the joke – What do you call someone who speaks three languages? – Trilingual; What do you call someone who speaks two languages? – Bilingual; What do you call someone who speaks one language? – American. I am an American.
It’s not that I’m proud of not speaking another language, nor am I necessarily ashamed that I don’t. I think it would be interesting to speak to someone in their first language. People do it with me all the time. I have taught students who came into class without knowing any English, and they have left speaking quite a bit – I did my part in helping. I didn’t, however, set any kind of example… really… maybe a negative example. I believe that immersion is an effective technique, so we would label everything in the classroom in both English and Spanish, then our rule was that inside the classroom we could only speak English and outside the classroom we could only speak Spanish. It was actually pretty effective – the kids who spoke only Spanish improved their English skills and also got quite a laugh at my babblings when we were outside… nice. Their parents were funny too – they would speak slower and louder to help me understand – they were true Americans.
Maybe I’ll learn Portuguese, that would be fun to learn… I bought a dictionary.