Hello! Just a quick side note before I get onto today’s actual topic. This blog is not solely to express my enthusiasm for foreign languages. It is one of the main focuses, but I have plans to discuss many other topics. If anyone would like for me to write about any topic in particular, please let me know. The goal is to interest people and get them thinking.
Tonight I will simply explain my language story. I think this should logically come first before I keep discussing languages further.
I started studying Italian in elementary school at the age of seven. I was in second grade. I’m not sure if there’s such a thing as an ‘informed decision’ when you’re seven, but I was given the choice to take either Spanish, French or Italian. There wasn’t much thought behind the decision to take Italian. I eliminated the options of French and Spanish based off of some naive notions of them being annoying, hard, or everyone else is taking them. And I’m part Italian, so I just thought Italian was the cool thing to do. I remember having to pick my second and third choice and being so aggravated that I might end up in French or something. But I got my Italian, and all through elementary school and intermediate school they basically assume you can’t handle anything more complex than colors, animals or sentences like “I go to the movies,” or “I went to the movies.” In high school all those other tenses came along, and I was just soaking it up. I was like a kid in an Italian candy store. By my last year of high school I spoke Italian through the lens of American English. But I still spoke it damn well. I could chat online with Italian peers, listened to music and knew some lyrics pretty well, and I won a contest for writing the best essay in New Jersey in Italian about the earthquake in Haiti, as well as tying for seventh place in the National Italian Exam. Then, college started. I took a year off, and it’s shocking how much I had lost by the time I got back to Italian my second year of college. I still did near perfectly, but I didn’t have my abilities to discuss the earthquake in Haiti anymore. I am not studying it right now. My only practice is listening to some songs occasionally.
Spanish, I did not start until my senior year of high school. I started with minimal knowledge of Spanish while I was at the peak of my Italian. It was…well, a joke. So halfway through the year I was offered the opportunity to switch into the advanced Spanish II class. I just had to learn half a year’s worth of information in about a week and pass a midterm for the Spanish I and the Spanish II class. No pressure. Well, I studied my ass off, and got a 95 on the Spanish II midterm. So I switched. That might have been the most important step in my Spanish education. Without that, I doubt I’d be allowed to start off in intermediate Spanish my freshman year of college. But I did, and now in my junior year of college I am in advanced Spanish, and it’s getting more and more effortless to express everyday thoughts. And my reasoning for taking up Spanish my senior year and passing on physics was pretty practical. I didn’t want to abandon my beloved Italian, but knowing Spanish would help me talk to a lot more people in America than Italian would.
So why the hell do I know Russian? That did not start in school. My best friend came back from a summer in Russia and made some comment about how it felt weird speaking English again. And I showed an interest in learning Russian; that’s how I started. I started with random words on flashcards, a little travel book, and surprisingly a lot of writing on napkins, preferably of the Subway or Dunkin Donuts variety. But sometimes you just have to make due with what McDonald’s gives you. Anyways, I kept switching around. I got some more grammar books, listened to more t.A.T.u. than anyone should ever listen to in their life, and did some online studies. And the grammar was just a mystery. A complete mystery. Even Russians don’t get it. But I think I fail to appreciate how much my two years of college studies have helped clear up this ominous fog that is the Russian language. My reasoning for learning Russian: well, it sounds cool. It looks cool. It’s not the most elaborate explanation when someone asks why you study a language. Sorry, I’m not doing it for my nonexistent Russian ancestors or to order a Russian bride. Just because I like it. I don’t think anyone needs more reason than that. You think something is interesting? Then learn it. It’s that simple.
So, I can attest to having some working knowledge in four languages, not fluency, though. And to me they are: my first language, my childhood friend I can’t get rid of, a practical life skill to have, and a fun, exotic hobby. My brain’s pretty happy about it.
And do I have more plans for the future? Yes, I have great plans. But no one likes to hear empty promises. When I’ve made some new progress, I’ll let you guys know then