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November 7th, 2006

Foreign Languages

Back when it was time for me to go to high school, I had a couple of choices as to which foreign language I wanted to study. There was Spanish, the “darn I wish I’d taken that” option; French, the “I wish I’d taken that, too, just in case we move to Canada” option; Latin, the “no one uses it so that makes it cool” option; and German, the “option I chose” option.

German was and is a hard language. It sounds horrible. But, it’s also rewarding to use it in social situations in part because no one knows what the heck you’re saying. Unless you live in a place with German speakers. Like Germany. Or Switzerland. Or… well.

Anyway, I took German for the duration of my time at the first high school I attended and really enjoyed it. It was indeed hard, but – dare I say it? – fun. I consider it a testament to my teacher that to this very day I can still put together rudimentary sentences, know quite a few vocab words, and can count up to a hundred even though I haven’t had a German class or any exposure to the language in 13 years.

But I’m starting to consider relearning it, in part to keep my brain from getting mushier than it already is. I started investigating books on Amazon and realized that there are roughly 4,890 books available – all of which will teach me German, ranging in cost from 50 cents (used) to $500 (new). It’s almost more daunting than forming the present perfect tense.

I’m even considering getting back to German and picking up some basic French, mostly so I can be known as a polyglot. Okay, okay, I’d really just be trilingual but… give me a break.

Posted in Everyday Life

COD November 7, 2006, 12:53 pm

I went to small schools where we had one foreign language choice. I took German in 10th grade, then we moved and I got to start over with Spanish for 11th and 12 grade. So I already am trilingual 😉

jk November 7, 2006, 2:28 pm

Ich stimme ueber ein! Ich versuche, jeden Tag, etwas von zu lesen, damit ich ein bisschen uben kann.

Ich will auch Italienisch lernen–mein Bruder hat mir Kassetten gekauft aber ich habe sie noch nicht probiert oder benutzt.

Monica November 7, 2006, 7:00 pm

bonne chance avec tes etudies! (je connais seulement deux langues, mais heuresement dans les sciences presque tout le monde parle anglais.)

Merle November 7, 2006, 8:26 pm

I *wanted* to learn Latin, but they were phasing it out at my high school. Starting off at third year Latin seemed like a poor choice.

I went with French, alas, which was okay, but Spanish would have been a heck of a lot more useful in the US.

Steve A November 7, 2006, 9:12 pm

I was raised outside San Diego, CA. There grade schoolers were taught Spanish. In high school I chose to learn German. And yes, I too can still remember some rudimentary phrases such as: Ich übe Geiger. Now that doesn’t often come up in conversation, but if anyone ever tells me they play the violin, I’ll be right there with, “Gut für dich (or sie, depending on how well I know you)!”

Why don’t they teach you important phrases, AND important phrase replies. What we REALLY should have learned was: Where’s the bathroom. I cannot ask that in German, but I can in Spanish. A godsend since I lived in Spain for four years. I could imagine myself having to have held it for that long. LOL.

Anyway, as a whole, we Americans are truly xenophobic in all things. Most folks do not want to take the time to learn other languages.

Dospadanya, tsai jian, auf weidersehn, hasta luego and ciao,
(And no, I used no translation device other than my brain to come up with those words. I could have easily added a few other languages as well.)

Paul November 7, 2006, 9:17 pm

“Where’s the bathroom?”

Wo sind die Toilette? … I believe that’s correct. jk can correct me, though.

J,Mannion November 7, 2006, 9:27 pm

My father was in the Diplomatic Service and I just happen to have an uncanny way of picking up on language. So, I speak a few languages conversationally. I studied Latin in high school and two years in college. Latin is the basis for most all European languages and once you capture it, you have the basics.

With all due respect to Sister Marion Gerard, et al., the Latin book title should read: If a flood should come and fill the world to the sky/ I will sit upon this book because it is so dry!


Terry M. November 7, 2006, 10:07 pm

While in high school I took Spanish, German, Chinese, and Latin, concurrently for 2 years. We were required to take 2; additionally one was my elective, and Latin was done at a local college after school.

Spanish is the only one I speak comptetently today, but am constantly learning more about it. I am in Colombia right now and NOBODY speaks English here, so speaking Spanish is absolutely indispensable, plus I´m getting all the practice I could ask for.

Dave Walls November 7, 2006, 10:19 pm

My high school was the only one in Delaware to offer Chinese as a language. I immediately signed up and took two years worth. I found it to be the most challenging thing I ever took, in either high school or college. Written and Spoken are two totally different languages.

The final exam field trip was dropped off in the Chinatown section of Philadelphia with a list of things to do..order lunch at a restaurant..go to this store, talk to this person, etc. A nerve racking test for sure, but a class I thoroughly enjoyed.

Steve A November 7, 2006, 11:41 pm

I guess I was fortunate to have worked/lived in all the countries that I have. I’ve got a rudimentary grasp on many languages. Even if I cannot converse fluently, I am usually able to make myself understood in:

– Spanish,
– German,
– Russian,
– Greek,
– Italian,
– French,

and a couple others.


Aanen November 8, 2006, 3:23 am

My dad is from Norway and I grew up learning Norsk. There are certain phrases such as Takk for mat ( not sure if I spelled that right), which means thanks for the food and a few others. I can understand it much better than I can speak it. When my dad talks to his family, I can usually understand what he is saying.

I can also speak German. I had it in 2nd and 3rd grade while living over there. While I haven’t spoken it in quite a while, I can still understand it pretty well. We lived on the economy and the majority of my friends were German.

I had Spanish and French in high school but I don’t remember it as well as I do Norsk and German.

My dad speaks fluent english, some French, spanish and fluent German.

J,Mannion November 8, 2006, 3:53 am

This is interesting. When I was a little tyke my nanny was Chinese and she would speak to me in the dialect of her region, which as I recall was Ming? I was too young to grasp the language and the nuances of the sounds. Nevertheless, I thought the language was one of the most interesting.

My late son-in-law was full blooded Navajo and he spoke the language. It is very interesting, too. They don’t have a vast, colorful selection of works like we have in English. That is, a tree is a tree and a deer is a deer and that’s about it. Not too many adjectives, either. Short, pointed and difficult to speak. I did learn a few words in Navajo.

My greatest struggle is with the English language. I do okay with American, but when it comes to the King’s English, well that’s a whole different story and I was born here and have lived most of my life here except for a few years in Asia as a toddler and a half a dozen more in Europe as an older child.


jk November 8, 2006, 4:52 am

Wo finde ich die Toilette? Very good. The problem is if you ask a basic phrase like that in another language, they may answer you in a dialect or speak so quickly you have no clue what the answer was!

I agree that we are xenophobic here. Don’t get me started.

I really wish I were fluent in sign language; I can spell super fast, but I am sure it’s pretty annoying to the recipient. I have however been pleased when I’ve been able to convey my point.

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