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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

For the Love of Language

Through a fortunate accident, a love of language was rekindled last year. In the search for one last humanities course to make a complement, I stumbled across Spanish 101. My experience with High School Spanish was a positive one; after four years, I was comprehending with ease. Now, a chance to refresh and further my studies had presented itself, and I ran through the open door with alacrity. A chance to experience a new culture, a new way of life...

A new set of words.

Words. They are what set us apart from all the other life-forms on the planet. They tear down, they build up. They can destroy a marriage, they can make peace between tribes. Everything began with a word, and all will find its terminus in a spoken breath.

On a recent trip to France, I had the good fortune to make a friend in the Cathedral town I was visiting. Oddly enough, he was cleaning the cathedral. We made fast friends, even though the words passing our lips were just vague husks of communication. Too wide a gap existed between us for any meaningful verbal exchanges, so we did the best pantomime we could, until our meanings struck home. Which happened one out of every five attempts to speak. This encounter gave me pause. Here is man, with the same general appearance: a bipedal creature with bilateral symmetry. Each human looks equivalent to all the others, with differences no greater than one's relative position to the equator. And yet, the lack of understanding of a common language will separate us instantaneously. With this experience a burning impetus, I endeavor, with the last two months of Summer, to learn as much as I can about two languages:

Spanish: This I have some background with, and I can already speak in the past and present indicative with some effort. I will work out of a workbook named "Destinos". This is a program which allows the learner to view a video series while practicing with grammar and vocabulary. The video series follows a telenovela, a soap opera which allows the student to experience the language through real life situations. I have found it very effective, more so than the textbooks used in High School.

French: To expose myself to basic French, I am using a Living Language course by Random House. This is a set of CD's with a textbook included. The grammar is very similar between Spanish and French; the grave gulf between the two is pronunciation. With the aid of the CD's, I hope to beat my mouth muscles into submission until the pleasant sounds of the French tongue come through with greater clarity.

So an adventure awaits. It is with no little trepidation that I broach the idea of learning two foreign languages simultaneously, but the slight fear is tempered with great joy. I'll never be perfect at the languages I seek to understand, but I will gain a greater appreciation for the heritages of two mover and shaker nations in the world community. And, I'll gain backstage access to the workings of language and its origin in the human mind. I hope to share my experiences with those across the keyboard who are also interested in learning another tongue. I am sure I am not the first to journal his thoughts while exploring a few foreign languages; this endeavor is to allow me to keep my thoughts corralled as I go through each lesson. It also serves as a useful conversation starter, as my vocabulary grows through a community of fellow lovers of learning.

So come along for the ride. I anticipate a post every other day, and I will be posting my general thoughts and natural blogs as well. Soak them up, offer criticism, mold me into a blogger which can express your thoughts as well as my own.

And, happy learning!

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