Skip to main content

Look, I'm an ugly American. I speak one language, and only moderately well at that. Sure, I know a handful of phrases and words in French and Spanish, but saying I have any fluency would be false. To be honest, I am unhappy about that, and plan to start taking some Spanish classes as soon as I retire and relocate. Too old? Well, it may be limited and slow, but dammit I will learn some. Fortunately, Spanish is a fairly easy language for English speakers to learn, I have read.
There are some very good reasons to do so, and I think they need to be discussed.

First, we are an English speaking country in a primarily Spanish speaking hemisphere. For commerce, travel, tourism, and connecting with many of our own citizens, it would be useful, logical, and highly efficient if we were a bilingual people. Spanish classes starting in elementary school would be incredibly useful. More over the orange doodle.

It has been pretty well established that the bilingual and multilingual brain works a bit differently, and arguably better than the monolingual. Finding support for that concept is easy. is an article that gives some information.

There are many others that cite advantages for adults learning a second language; delayed cognitive loss with age is measurable. I mean, learning anything keeps us sharper, but learning a second language has shown physical effects including increased gray matter density.

But here is, to me another factor. I am honest enough with myself to admit that being surrounded by Spanish speakers can make me a little nervous, since inability to communicate puts you at a disadvantage. It occurs to me, and I'm sure that I am not unique, that some of the fear that comes with the influx of Hispanic immigrants comes from some level of fear of that inability to understand.

"So, Grouch, what was your first hint? All those misspelled signs that this was "Murica, speak English?" Yeah, I'm not unique or original in seeing that, and diagnosing it as what it is, for all bigotry has fear as a founding cause. And I know that it's a hard haul to get the idea of early language education into a school system that is under attack and underfunded. But, geez, isn't it a pretty good idea? Our children would have sharper brains, longer, and be much more mobile culturally and geographically.

So, just a few thoughts. Meanwhile, as I said, I'll be moving in a few months. In spite of my personal failure as a linguist, I'm heading to an area that is de facto bilingual. It's called New Mexico. I really hope I can get at least a little grasp of Spanish, but wouldn't it have been great if I had had more opportunity to learn as a child?

Originally posted to The grouch on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 08:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  I have heard (14+ / 0-)

    that after your first three languages, adding more is a cinch (this from Norwegian-Americans who spoke both English and Norwegian as well as German and probably French).

    And yes, they started adding languages as children.

    English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

    by Youffraita on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 09:02:49 AM PDT

    •  Learned French and English as a youngun (13+ / 0-)

      Added Russian in high school, added 9 other Germanic, Romance and Slavic languages living abroad for a year.

      It does help open one's mind.  It helps one learn to think about problems in a more inclusive manner.  It also helps to identify cultural differences and how to shift one's communication style to bridge those differences, if one is so inclined.  

      Often, here in the States, I do a lot of smiling and nodding then walking away when I realize these people already think their cup of knowledge is full; they cannot take in more knowledge because they already know everything there is to know in their limited worldview.  I look at their world, how small it is and am grateful for all the opportunities to continue learning I have been given, the huge world in which I get to play.  Seeing the world in such stark black and white is most unfortunate when there are so many brilliant colors and subtle shades of gray.

      •  Yes. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I studied French for many years, and (briefly) was sorta-kinda fluent in it.

        That didn't last long: use it or lose it.

        BUT I think if I studied, I could pick up Spanish very easily b/c the languages are so similar in terms of sentence structure, gender, etc.

        Italian and Portuguese look more difficult. But Spanish?

        Yeah, I could at least get semi-competent (if I didn't have to be Gabriel Garcia Marquez, LOL.) And, of course, depending on which dialect I'm trying to speak (I think Mexican is easier than Puerto Rican, for example).

        English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

        by Youffraita on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 12:08:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I have met Scandinavians who... (10+ / 0-)

    almost all started learning English in grade school. It's just a good idea and a gift to your people to expand their world.

  •  It's a damn good idea! (14+ / 0-)

    What's more, countries which are bi- or multi-lingual have much higher educational outcomes than countries which are monolingual so it has to be beneficial.

    Unfortunately, it's only likely to be considered in blue states though Colorado should consider it since they now have all that extra money for schools courtesy of marijuana taxes. Colorado (and now Washington) can afford to be laboratory states for progressive educational practices and should do exactly that.

    Meanwhile I applaud you for committing to taking up learning a second language. I hope you surprise yourself with how well you do. (◕‿◕)

    Please note that lamps in the Magic Lamp Emporium are on a genie time-share program so there may be a slight delay in wish fulfillment. (◕‿◕)

    by Mopshell on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 09:16:06 AM PDT

  •  Yes, learning another language is a good thing, no (7+ / 0-)

    matter the age of the learner.

    As a child I learned bits and pieces of Japanese, Italian, and German.  Then we moved to southern Mississippi.... for 8 years.....  I still remember some of the words I learned.  I took 2 years of Latin in high school and two semesters of German in college.

  •  Community College (9+ / 0-)

    When you arrive at your new location, enroll in Spanish 1 in your local community college.  After 1 course, you will at least know how to pronounce and spell all the words.  Do it 5 days a week, and do all the lab work (usually recordings to play and speak to/with).

    I did that 20 years ago, and it gave me a big boost in understanding.

    •  Thanks for good thoughts. (7+ / 0-)

      There's an excellent community college in ABQ, where I once studied electronics years ago, an it's on my list. Also, I have several bilingual friends there, including a retired teacher who worked in bilingual ed.

      I'm looking forward to it, and also plan, if I make any progress, to learn some traditional songs of the area. Que bueno!

      •  if you don't want to wait you can try this (7+ / 0-)


        It's free  and probably the best online language tool I have ever seen

        Necessity is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.-- Wm.Pitt the Younger

        by JeffSCinNY on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 11:25:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  and after that (7+ / 0-)

        once you've got some of the basics of Spanish down, you might try watching Spanish-language TV stations, which most major US cities now have.  I'd especially recommend watching newscasts, which have several advantages:  broadcast journalists, in all languages (or at least in the 4 or 5 that I speak at various levels) tend to speak in a neutral accent, more slowly and clearly than speakers in other contexts do, and they usually have pictures and captions of the stories they're covering, which helps reinforce the message for non-fluent language learners.  Plus, you get the added perspective, to paraphrase Robert Burns, of "seeing ourselves as others see us," which I wish more Americans were capable of doing.

        By the way, I completely support the original proposal of introducing Spanish and/or other foreign language instruction as early as possible.  Kids pick up languages more easily than adults do, but don't worry--you can teach an old dog new tricks.

        •  actually in terms of captioning (0+ / 0-)

          Do not just rely on the basic on-screen caption(i.e. the short descriptive ones, go one level further.)
          always turn on the closed captioning system when you are watching any Spanish programs. thanks to ADA, Close captioning is available on all TVs.

          For news/live program the captioning might be hard because it is scrolling and is it now speaker focused.  There is also the occasional captioning mistake, but those are usually rare.

          If you watch any recorded program that is captioned. The captions are usually formatted. Meaning the caption is usually under the speaker and additional information about the tone/style etc used by the speaker. Also there is usually caption that will describe the scene of elements important to the plot

          •  Personally, (0+ / 0-)

            I don't recommend close captioning.

            The translation is often off. Heck , it's often off on English shows.

            What I recommend is that people find their favorite TV shows on Spanish TV and watch those, no captions.

            If you know basically what Tony and Ziva are arguing about on NCIS, then you can follow the language pretty effortlessly.

            Or rent/buy your favorite movies. You'll be able to follow along, absorbing language as you go. You'll also be exposed to idioms instead of verbatim translations.

            © grover

            So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

            by grover on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 07:17:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Use of foreign language television (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I totally agree with you---I am multi-lingual (English, Spanish, French, Italian and German) I have the remains of Gaelic--had to study the language when I was learning how to Step Dance!  I grew up with English as the first language, then had Italian added from the close relatives.  (that Italian was very useful when our children were young---it's so much better to admonish a child in Italian when in public with them!  :-) )
          Married a German, who is still in recovery (it's hard for 'outsiders' to marry into a Primarily Irish-Italian family)
            My suggestion for the Spanish learning--watch the Novellas (? spelling isn't my strong point), on Univision. They have soaps, in three or four different dialects--Spanish from Spain, Spanish from South America (Columbian), from Mexico and from Puerto Rico.
            Having another language is a wonderful process.  It creates new parts of the brain---and adds more flavors to one's life!

          •  indeed (0+ / 0-)

            I'm already fluent in Spanish and French, and my wife is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.  She recently added the Brazilian network O Globo to our cable subscription and started watching their Novelas (probably the best of the genre--certainly the highest production value).  I started watching them with her, and went from understanding nothing to understanding at least half of what was said.  It's certainly a fun way to learn/improve one's knowledge of a language--if and only if you have a certain baseline to start from.

    •  There are numerous resources for language (0+ / 0-)

      learning on the Internet. Spaleon (Spanish Learning Online) brings a number of them together.

      I can read Spanish and understand it when spoken if I know the topic of conversation well enough, but I can't really speak it. I don't get many opportunities to practice here at home. I can watch Spanish-language TV on Comcast. Plaza Sesamo, noticias, deportes, telenovelas…

      I have used the Foreign Service Institute Spanish textbook and recordings, at FSI Language Courses—Spanish Programmatic.

      I also have A Microwave Course in Spanish, where microwave is a technique for learning grammar in small increments pioneered at FSI and adopted by the Peace Corps for all of the language texts it commissioned. The document is available for free download. The text provided is a bad OCR of a printed textbook meant to be viewed with Spanish and English on facing pages, but instead shown vertically one after the other. I can provide a cleaned up and reordered version in a document file that I made for me own use. The copyright has been orphaned, so we can't get it republished.

      I have tried many Spanish textbooks, and found none entirely satisfactory. But taking them together they cover the ground.

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 01:07:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If the opportunity arose the best way would be (8+ / 0-)

    a month or two where no one speaks English. Bring a phrase book and start a brutal regimen of vocab memorization.

    I flunked got a C in French the last year I took it in 9th grade. Took a ten hour Mandarin class at the "free" school in Cambridge MA where our professor embarrassed us into memorizing. Later talking to a Harvard student taking Mandarin I learned he was forced to memorize fifty words and the way to write it, every week. Students in China had to have a 1600 word English vocabulary to be accepted into High School.

    It's a lot easier to learn Mandarin than English.

    After my crude attempts at self learning Mandarin I lived in a remote province in Thailand, again almost no English speakers around, no expat or tourist scene. I did a lot better with Thai as I already knew how to learn. Laotian was similar enough to Thai it was mostly a substitution of some vocabulary, like French to Spanish, which I did when I came back to live in the states and no one spoke English that I worked with.

    As a middle aged and informal learner one can never approach the fluency of a college student who takes classes for four years, but that's ok. Some is better than none.

    Despite all my interest in language I and many immigrants also, are big proponents of immigrants learning English. It's a necessity in America and pretty much throughout the world outside Latin America. English is the de facto lingua franca. he he.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 09:48:21 AM PDT

  •  Sorry, off to work. Thanks to all. nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    One Pissed Off Liberal, BMScott
  •  there are websites where (6+ / 0-)

    you can arrange to meet people for language exchanges--you meet, say, for coffee, and spend half the time speaking in your own language and half the time in theirs. This is a good way to gain proficiency and build vocabulary.

    Language textbooks, in my experience, have very limited usefulness. You can pick up the grammar pretty quick, but learning the kinds of things people actually use in common speech requires practice with actual speakers, or reading texts.

    One nice thing about English is that many people want to learn it, so you can find a lot of partners for language exchanges.

    Spanish is a good language to try to learn because it's international, and in America, it's probably not too hard to find someone who speaks it, if you live in a big city. It's also simple for English speakers to pick up (as compared to, say, Russian, Mandarin, or Arabic which are notorious for being difficult).

    "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

    by limpidglass on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 09:57:50 AM PDT

    •  Yes, when I started learning Spanish in 2011 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I used the site to set up language exchanges via Skype.  Basically you do a 1 hour conversation with someone, spending 30 minutes in your target language (where they help you) and then 30 languages in your own language (you help them).  That site has since closed.  

      However, there are other sites such as and  I have browsed those sites but haven't sought out any conversations because I have plenty of Spanish speaking friends now.  

  •  2 excellent language learning aids. (10+ / 0-) is a well designed advertising free online site for general language learning and anki is a free downloadable flashcard program for vocabulary building.

    It's a great thing to do. More power to you and good luck.

  •  A young brain absorbs multiple languages easily (7+ / 0-)

    I spoke 3 languages by the time I was 6.  The language part of the brain gets wired to accommodate new languages until you are about 12 years old.

    Beyond a young age, the neurons lose the ability to rewire the language part so languages are learnt by a different process involving normal memory.

    But anything that exercises the brain is good at any age.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 10:25:49 AM PDT

    •  Indeed, this is a flaw in the typical American (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The grouch, mattc129

      educational experience.

      I don't know about private or magnet schools, but most children who attend public schools are not given foreign language instruction until high school, when it's offered as an elective.  In truth, the instruction needs to begin in elementary school, in 4th grade if not earlier.

    •  My cousins knew that first hand. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mattc129, cai

      My Aunt was married to a career diplomat, and in the 50s and 60s they were posted all over the world. By age 8, my cousins were speaking greek, italian, and chinese.

      The older of the 2 cousins ended up working Import-export due to her command of Cantonese, which was very useful on the west coast.

  •  I'm learning German for an eventual move there (4+ / 0-)

    I'm 27, so while past the critical phase for learning languages, I'm still doing ok. I took a semester in college, a live class in Brooklyn, and I use Duolingo, as mentioned above. I also go to monthly speaker's meetup and have been trying to find conversation partners to improve speaking.

    I've learned so much more about English from studying German. Direct objects, indirect objects, the difference between single you (du/dich/dir in German) and plural you (ihr/euch/Sie) [equiv to 'you all' in southern English]. I really wish English preserved all the things that makes it more challenging to learn other languages, namely noun gender and cases.

    I took Spanish in high school but remember none of it. I'm just more motivated to learn German, so that's why I've kept up with it. I'm learning German prepositions and adverbs now, and they are so difficult to use correctly in context, especially since oftentimes one German word translates to an entire English phrase.

    •  Interesting that you want to move to (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BelgianBastard, mattc129, mconvente

      Germany. Any particular reasons for that? I am a long-time US expat in Germany, and make my living translating. My excuse, though, is that I grew up bilingual. How fast you learn really depends on several factors, but the best way hands down is immersion in the culture and language. For example, I took several years of French in high school and college, then went to France for 2 months, enrolled in an intensive Alliance Francaise French course for four hours a day and studied another 4 - 6 hours a day, plus going out and practicing in day-to-day situations in between, i.e. bakeries, restaurants, etc. By the time I left my French was quite fluent, but not everyone has that opportunity. Do you have relatives in Germany you could visit? Have you thought of applying to a university? PhD students usually don't finish before their early 30s, so 27 is not old for a student here. If you have questions, ask me via KosMail. It's hard to give advice without more details on what exactly your aims are.

      „Wer kämpft, kann verlieren. Wer nicht kämpft, hat schon verloren.“ - Bertolt Brecht

      by translatorpro on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 06:22:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm a front-end developer and product designer (0+ / 0-)

        so I would likely look at tech jobs in Berlin. I'm not planning on going to university. I know Soundcloud is there, as well as a bunch of other startups. I also am acquainted with someone who recently lived in Berlin, but his company was acquired by Facebook so I'm not sure if he was working in Berlin, and thus didn't have to go through the trouble of getting a work visa.

        I have German heritage and really love the language. It's long been a regret of mine that I am not bi-lingual, or at least highly proficient in a second language. Since I'm only 27, I have nothing holding me back other than a luckily great job situation here.

        I think there are language visas but I would want to stay beyond 2 or 3 months. It's just so hard to learn German in the US, even living in NYC where there are expats. I feel I'll only reach my desired level of proficiency from living there. And honestly, I kinda just want a restart.

        •  You might be out of luck with web-design (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          There's a glut of Germans already filling those jobs, so unless you know someone in one of those tech companies who is willing to go to the Amt and get you a work visa you're pretty much SOL.

           Also, look at tech jobs on the American side where you know they send transfers to the German speaking countries.  If you start working on a German degree while working with one of them, it might be a foot in the door.  Talk to a college adviser and see if you could do your last year abroad and then have that time to intern in a tech firm. You may have to work for little or no pay for a while, but then you also have the opportunity to prove yourself.  You also have to understand that degrees mean almost as much and sometimes more than experience over here. If you do go that route, get a Bescheinigung from all your employers, which will help you out in the future.

          You also might want to look at some of the language programs that are offered outside of the university setting over here. You might be able to get over here for a year or so on that and try to get into your field that way.

          If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. -George Washington

          by Tank Mountaine on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 11:13:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  In my limited research, I've read that it's really (0+ / 0-)

            difficult to turn a language or tourist visa into a work visa. That's why I'd want to try and get a work visa while still in the states. I have a sorta friend from college who teaches English in Hamburg, but her German is way better than mine; she's good enough that she also translates. She mentioned I could try to apply to teach English, at least to have one way to make a move more realistic.

            Of course, there's the whole part about living expenses. I want to move so bad that I would be willing to not work while studying German, but clearly that can't last forever.

            Regarding Germans filling German jobs, that obviously makes sense, but in my limited searching I have seen listings that specifically ask for native English speakers. I feel that being a native English speaker would actually give me an advantage over a German who learned it in childhood. Could you tell me if that's the case?

          •  Also, I'm not going back to college in order to (0+ / 0-)

            move, especially not getting a BA in German literature or whatever. Why wouldn't getting a B2 Zertifikat be enough for the purposes of moving when it comes to German language knowledge? Especially when all you need is A1 to marry someone and jump-start the permanent residence stuff.

            •  They want Native Speakers that also speak German (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              and the point I was making about getting a BA would be the advantage of a much higher chance of getting a one year visa to Germany and a one year internship that just might give you room and board and maybe a few Euros in deiner Tasche. These professors have a lot of connections but they aren't going to share them with you or hook you up unless you are in their classes.

              Got it?  That's a 2-4 year time investment depending on how many credits you can already apply to a BA in German.

              If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. -George Washington

              by Tank Mountaine on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 11:58:15 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I have a BFA in graphic design, so prob none =P (0+ / 0-)

                I don't really want to spend however many Euros per year as an international student just to be able to move to Germany. I'm lucky to have paid off my student loan debt at 27, so I wouldn't really want to undo that progress.

                Any move is still years away, so I have plenty of time to do research. But I will find a way. Maybe I'll have a nice windfall from where I work and will just live off that! =P

            •  Also, if you have a BA, then you don't need the A1 (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              to get married. (I'm proof)

              If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. -George Washington

              by Tank Mountaine on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 11:59:09 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Bilingualism is good. So is learning a country's (4+ / 0-)

    primary language when you move there.

  •  My parents spoke Mandarin exclusively (6+ / 0-)

    at home. I can listen and understand, most of the time, what's going on.

    I used to go to Chinese school on Sundays but it's not really effective with once a week exposure to the written language.

    I lived in Taiwan for 3 months taking classes at Shida University Mandarin Training Center. I would say that, initially, all the Mandarin I learned at home was my phrase book. Now I can hold a conversation in Mandarin with most people. However, when it comes to scientific or technical terms, I have to resort to English. Like I know what a freaking transmission electron microscope is in Mandarin.

    It IS a little challenging to listen through regional accents, though. Man, do some of the folks from other regions of China like twisting their tongues for the R sound.

    I regularly write letters to my grandparents in Chinese. I do use a dictionary to get the characters I want, but most of the grammar is there. They like it because I write on the computer and I can make the text big like newspaper headlines.

    Why hello there reality, how are you doing?

    by Future Gazer on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 11:17:20 AM PDT

  •  My second language is Latin... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The grouch, NeverThere, mattc129

    ...which while not spoken regularly is helpful for other languages including English.  I have long thought that foreign languages should be taught in elementary school and that every American should graduate high school knowing English and one other modern language fluently.

  •  Suggestion (4+ / 0-)

    watch Spanish language "noticias" - news.  It helps to get you used to seeing familiar stories ofttimes - but in Spanish.

    Listening to music in Spanish gets you in tune with tone - pronunciation,  

    "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition." Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 11:39:37 AM PDT

  •  I set Spanish as a goal in my retirement. I have (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The grouch, mattc129, cai, BMScott

    not done so well.

    You really need to take classes. That never worked for me. I thought the computer stuff would work as a substitute. Nope. Only as a enhancement, not as a substitute.

    You really need to speak it to people.

    There is a panic that sets in and sears the words into your memory when you take a class and are forced to speak and search for words.

    In my dreams, I am speaking Spanish, we are talking and laughing.

    Child forgotten in car? -- Use open source E-Z Baby Saver -- Andrew Pelham, 11yo inventor E-Z Baby Saver

    by 88kathy on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 11:54:31 AM PDT

    •  Depends on whether you want to be (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BelgianBastard, 88kathy

      able to converse, or whether you just want a reading knowledge of the language. If you want to converse, live interaction is pretty much a requirement.  If you’re sufficiently motivated, though, you can get a reading knowledge on your own, though classes can certainly speed up the process.

  •  the problem with New Mexico (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The grouch, Denise Oliver Velez

    is that few here speak textbook Spanish.

    I learned all my Spanish from the workers on construction sites  over the past 35 years.

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 12:32:09 PM PDT

    •  Oh, I know that well. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez, cai

      It's often said that they speak "spanglish" in NM. But that's OK, I do have some friends who are pretty good at proper spanish, and there are also some other hispanic transplants in the area, like my friend Danny, who is Nicaraguan.

      So, however it goes, I'll at least give it a shot. No harm in learning something, as far as I can tell.

    •  Textbook Spanish (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The grouch, Miggles, BMScott

      is a term with limited usefulness, IMO.

      I was taught Mexican (proper  university Mexican) Spanish in 7-8th grade.

      My 9-10th grade Spanish teacher was from Nicaragua, but she taught Castilian Spanish. We used "Vos" as I recall but she did not insist upon Castilian pronunciation.  

      My 11-12th grade teacher was from Span. He spoke in and insisted upon Castilian Spanish.

      My college professors (I have a Spanish minor) were from South and Central America, Mexico and Spain.

      I learned many different forms of "textbook Spanish."  

      Generally, the Spanish/dialect  I use is a Baja/Baja Sur form of Spanish (not using the Tijuana accent which is fast speech, rather song-like and hard to understand), using the form of "you" that is used in that area. No matter where I've travelled, I've been understood pretty easily.

      Generally, if you're speaking actual Spanish, a sympathetic Spanish speaker can understand. It may be hard for a Swede who speaks English as a second language to understand a Georgia or Brooklyn accent. But he can if both parties slow down and try.

      So don't underestimate the value of the Spanish you know.

      © grover

      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 07:48:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Back in 1961, during the first wave of (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        grover, BelgianBastard

        Cuban refugees, my parents had a number of refugees over for a social gathering of some sort, along with some natives of other Latin American countries.  The high point of the afternoon for me was the good-natured discussion of who in Latin America spoke the best and the worst Spanish.  If I remember correctly, they decided that Venezuelans spoke the best Spanish, and I seem to recall that they put Cuban Spanish at or near the bottom.  (I emphasize that it was all in fun, and they were all clearly having a good time.)

      •  I don't "underestimate" my Spanish (0+ / 0-)

        at all.  I built adobe houses in Spanish for 35+ years.  It is not very good Spanish,  but it gets the job done.  

        don't always believe what you think

        by claude on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 05:25:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  "Learning extra languages is a waste of time." (6+ / 0-)

    I've actually had people say that to me.

    I have my daughter enrolled in a public school program learning through Mandarin immersion.  She is half Brazilian so knows Portuguese. And of course English.

    I think knowing these things and the "languages" of music, art, and math are all she'll really need as foundation of an education.  Well, that and the language of character and personal relationships.


    Having lived overseas more than once where I didn't speak the local languages, I can say that what your diary cites is true: language differences can breed suspicion and lead to misunderstanding.  But learning them can overcome some of this.

    I really liked learning Portuguese because Brazilians were always friendly and encouraging, which made it easier.  Chinese people were the same.  And I imagine Spanish-speaking people almost entirely across the board based on all the experiences I have are encouraging as well.

    As a learning aid, the PIMSLEUR system worked well for me -- because I loaded it up on my MP3 player and could do it wherever I was.


    People talk about new languages giving them souls.  I found this to be true.

    Through learning Portuguese I became very connected with emotional intelligence, warmth, and in a way love in ways that experience hadn't had before. Since Brazilians have those in abundance as a general rule, these were more expressed.

    My half Brazilian daughter is full of love and confidence and warmth towards her classmate -- partly I think because she knows her daddy's love and affection for her is unshakeable....

    By the way, Spanish speaking peoples -- as a huge general rule -- have a lot of the traditions of warmth and connectdness that Brazilians do....

  •  On learning other languages (7+ / 0-)

    In my late twenties I decided I wanted to learn French.  I lived two years in Paris and can carry on a normal conversation and read the newspaper.

    I met my spouse, a German, in France.  I lived in Germany for eight months and learned German.  It is as good as my French.  I always use German with my in-laws.

    I took classes in Paris and Germany.

    I teach ESL.  

    Unless you are a native- English speaker, in most advanced industrialized parts of the world, you are not an educated person if you don't have the ability to accomplish daily tasks in English.  In other words, we are in a world where most educated people who are not native speakers of English are bilingual

    For those of us who are native speakers of English, we have to realize we are at a major disadvantage if we don't try seriously to learn another language.

    [Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security] do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

    by MoDem on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 12:49:59 PM PDT

  •  I've never really spoken Spanish. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The grouch, cai

    I suspect because my sister and I had to spend the summer I was seven learning it instead of going outside and playing (our parents had to convince the local school district that they were competent to deal with the bright children they had - loggers are supposed to be as dumb as dirt).

    I picked up a lot when I lived in Los Angeles, but I never really had to use it, except to corral the occasional toddler, so I've lost it again.

    I took German in college, and my teacher knew I never studied outside of class - I pulled Bs, and she said if I ever went where I had to use it, inside of four months nobody would know I wasn't a native speaker.

    I pick up languages easily (that's how the family talent for mimicry comes out in me), but the only one I've ever had to really use is English.  I can even do second person familiar when pressed.

    Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

    by loggersbrat on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 01:06:47 PM PDT

  •  The Flemish, Dutch and Scandanavians... (6+ / 0-)

    are really good at languages because they realized a long time ago that speaking such 'small' languages, not being bi- or multilingual wasn't reall an option. There aren't many places you can travel and speak Dutch or Danish. If you want to get anywhere in business you need , at the very least, to speak English.

    In Belgium, for example, you haveto learn English, French/Dutch (whichever isn't your native language) and most kids learn at least some German too.

    I learnt Spanish, as well, but after school.

    I'm looking forward to learning Tagalog and Cebuano/Visayan when I get back to the Philippines in a few weeks.

    I ride the wild horse .

    by BelgianBastard on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 02:26:18 PM PDT

    •  I met a charming Belgian man once... (5+ / 0-)

      on a visit to NYC. His english was excellent, with a few idiomatic lapses.

      It seems that because Americans speak such a popular language, and live in a large country, where you can travel thousands of miles without an international border, they don't see a need. Well, there are a lot of great things that we don't actually need.

      Good luck in the Philippines. I have some filipino friends in NM, and find them very interesting people.

      •  Even in Europe... (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The grouch, cai, mattc129, blueoasis, fenway49

        in the bigger countries, you notice that fewer people speak English than the small ones.

        Part of it, too, is that in the smaller countries they don't dub American and British TV and movies (too expensive). Instead, they subtitle them. So kids (and adults) are learning English every time they watch CSI or the latest blockbuster... it's great. In Belgium you notice that (on average) the Flemish speak much better English, and a big part of it, is the French-speakers watch dubbed movies and TV (it's already been done for the French market).

        Enjoy learning Spanish!

        I ride the wild horse .

        by BelgianBastard on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 04:57:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Eddie Izzard (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The grouch, cai

    in Dressed to Kill:

    Monolinguists in a polyglot world

  •  My story (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The grouch, grover, mattc129, blueoasis

    One year after retiring I started learning Spanish.  I did it by watching Univision telenovelas.  Foreign language learning and ballroom dancing are two important things that can be done for the health of an aging brain.  I'm five years in now, and I am lots better.  Still, when Spanish speakers are talking fast to each other, I cannot keep up.  But I can generally tell what the subject of conversation is.

    I'm from Johnson City.

    by Al Fondy on Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 07:00:11 PM PDT

  •  There are a zillion different things you could do (5+ / 0-)

    to learn language, and many great suggestions have been made here.  So be sure to be open to everything and definitely focus on those things that work best for you.  Here are a few things that I did on my path to learning Spanish:

    1. Destinos - an old PBS series in telenovela format that starts you at the bare basics and increases in complexity as the episodes progress.  It is freely available.  This is good for your first month or two of Spanish.

    2. Assimil Spanish with Ease ($30-40 on Amazon) - this is a text broken into 113 bite-sized lessons and two phases.  First in the passive phase, you listen to the lesson and read out loud a few times.  At lesson 50 (passive), you start the active phase and go back to lesson 1.  There, you listen and read the old lesson and then translate the dialog from English to Spanish.  The genius behind this approach is by revisiting the earlier lesson, it is suddenly much easier than when you first encountered.  I would say that single handedly, Assimil is one of the best first things you can do in learning a language.  And many famous polyglots swear by it as well.  This will take 5 months to complete.

    3. Practice Makes Perfect workbooks.  These go for like $4 each on Amazon and cover things like verb tenses, pronouns, etc.  Whatever workbooks you get, be sure they have a key to all exercises in the back.

    4. FSI Programmatic Course - a pretty comprehensive text/workbook.  It was developed by the US State Department  Foreign Service Institute.  I used it as a supplement grammar workbook.

    5. Notes in Spanish Podcasts - there are 3 levels (basic, intermediate, advanced) and 100+ podcasts in each level.  It is a great way to start listening without having to dive off the deep end listening to stuff a full speed.

    6. Language exchange sites - try to find people to chat with via Skype through sites such as or  It is important that this be actual spoken conversation, not just text chat.  Spend 50% of the time in Spanish and 50% in English, helping one another with the language each is learning.  I still talk regularly with people I met through language exchanges in 2011 and consider them dear friends now, and I have even met some of them face to face during their or my foreign travel.

    7. A tutor - this can run around $35/hour for a one-on-one session.  I believe that a one-on-one session is far better than a class because you are getting 100% of the teacher's time instead of it being split among multiple students.

    8. The How to Learn Any Language Forums: a site for new learners and polyglot nerds alike.  There is an absolute wealth of material on issues such as learning techniques, learning materials, and personal logs.  The logs are great because you can see people at different phases, learning the same language as you, as well as pick up what strategies did and didn't work in their cases.

    A few things that worked for others but not for me:

    A. Anki -- a great flash card software that can help reinforce words that you already know.  The problem for me is that anki doesn't put the vocabulary in my brain.  I have to put it there by other means such as Iversen word lists.

    B. Classes - as I mentioned earlier the problem with classes is that your time with the teacher is diluted by the number of other students present.  In addition, there is the possible problem of exposure to too much bad pronunciation and usage by fellow students.

    C. Meetup Groups - these are great for general socializing, but at least in the US, the problem is that the number of native Spanish speakers is way smaller than the number of Spanish learners.  And just like with classes, the dilution issue creeps up again.

    D. Rosetta Stone - costs too much and doesn't get you very far.  All that time can be spent on more effective learning techniques.

    E. Pimsleur - this is an audio only course that many people love.  It just didn't float my boat.  Plus I felt that it didn't advance the student far enough.

    F. Overseas immersion classes - these might work for you once you retire, provided you have the bucks.  I am not near retirement age, so time was the issue for me.  But looking back, I just don't feel it would have gotten me to where I am now all that much faster.  If you do consider this, then buyer beware.  Research the language school as much as possible before signing up.

    My final suggestion is to do several different things throughout each week that cover all the bases (read, listen, speak, write).  If you get burnt out on one thing, say a grammar workbook, move to a different one or put it on the back burner in favor of say, watching more Spanish language movies.

  •  Great idea (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I am 100% behind your idea - we should start foreign languages in nursery school/kindergarten. Join the world.

  •  I Sucked at Foreign Languages... (0+ / 0-)

    ...until I moved to Greece in 1972.  My boyfriend was Greek but I had met him while he was in college in the states, so his English was impeccable.

    Once I was in Greece I took Greek language courses, made Greek friends and made sure that I spoke Greek as much as possible. My boyfriend (eventually my husband and later my ex-husband) was really great at correcting my grammar and pronunciation.

    I loved living in Greece and still have dear friends there that I visit when I have the time and money (so, not too often).  

    My advice is to take some classes and try to use your new language immediately in the real world. Here are some of the things that helped me embrace my new language and culture and may help you.

    Go to Hispanic owned business and use your Spanish with them.  Some of my early experiences using my new (and not very good) Greek was buying food and hardware to fix my apartment. I would look up words for things I needed before I left the house. Sometimes I would write things down and practice them before I left.  I also tried to think about what I wanted to buy in Greek terms instead of English - so I would be telling myself "Prepi na paro gala" rather than, "I need to get milk."  Talking to myself internally in Greek helped me begin to think and speak in that language.

    Watch some Spanish-speaking television (even cartoons are helpful in teaching your ear to recognize words).

    Try to make some Spanish-speaking friends. Speak Spanish with them and ask them for corrections.

    Pick up a Spanish language newspaper occassionaly or read children's books until you have enough vocabulary to read more difficult things.

    Language is ALL ABOUT COMMUNICATION.  Don't worry about your mistakes. Concentrate on communicating and correct mistakes as you learn.

    People will love you for trying and generally not be overly critical of your attempts.  

    Good luck with your new language. Remember, it's ALL about communicating not speaking perfectly. That only comes with LOTS of time and practice.

    "The Trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat." attributed to Lily Tomlin

    by uniqity on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 09:01:00 AM PDT

  •  It didn't work too well for SB 1070 (0+ / 0-)

    The Arizona state legislator that wrote anti-4th Amendment SB 1070 speaks Spanish.

    Mitt Romney speaks French.

    Lots of the idiots in the Utah state Churchislature speak another language.

    Most European neo-fascist groups have leaders that speak English, I would guess?  It's easier to post on Stormfront.

    "states like VT and ID are not 'real america'" -icemilkcoffee

    by Utahrd on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 09:14:58 AM PDT

  •  If you want to learn Spanish (0+ / 0-)

    don't take a class.

    Get the DuoLingo App.

    It's free.

    You can use it on a computer or a tablet. I have it on both.

    It's TERRIFIC.

    Usar la App de DuoLingo para aprender los idiomas otros!
    (Use the DuoLingo App to learn other languages!)

    As you can see, it helped me, a lot!

    "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

    by Angie in WA State on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 11:35:02 AM PDT

  •  Absolutely - research shows that children who (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The grouch

    are bilingual from a young age have more connections between the lobes of their brain, and they test better (shudder [I have opinions about good/bad testing]) too.

    Buenos suertos con sus estudios espanols.  Puedo hablo como una nina de tres anos (that n should be an enya; otherwise it means rectum, but I don't know how to put in the enya); una nina poco tonta.  Goodness knows how Google translate would manage that but what I tried to say was "Good luck with your Spanish studies.  I can speak Spanish like a three year old child; a somewhat stupid child."

    I have sent Spanish-speaking colleagues messages that translate as "!Happy New Rectum!" but in my opinion Spanish speakers are very kind to Spanish learners.  Even in France (in my very few days there) if you made an attempt to speak French, they did there best.  It was the anos that expected everyone, everywhere to speak English that irritated the French.

    ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

    by slowbutsure on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 04:07:14 PM PDT

    •  The things to learn in high school (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The grouch, slowbutsure

      That turn out to be the most effective in improving how your brain works, in my experience:

      1. Music; singing or band.  You learn working in a group and discipline.

      2. Math/science.  Methodical thinking.

      3. A language.  You learn another culture and another way of thinking about the world.

      I had 2 years of Spanish in high school, forgot nearly all of it, though it helped on a trip to Mexico when I was 20.  But it set me up to learn German 9 years later.  Those 4 cases and 3 genders were murder.

      Then years later I wanted to experience something really different so I studied Ancient Egyptian for a while.   Now there is an alian culture.  But it was eventually frustrating due to being a dead language for 2,000 years and nobody to use it with except Egyptologists.  Some Egyptian literature is kinda cool.

      I finally settled on Japanese.  The grammar is no harder than German but really REALLY different from anything else.  NO genders, NO case endings, only two tenses, NO plural: piece of cake, right?   Noooo.  They throw in things you never thought about before instead, mostly related to their culture.  The writing system is a clumsy kludge and the hardest part to learn because they tried to adopt Chinese writing for a language that is completely different.    Turns out there are symilaities to how Egyptian hieroglyphs work.  But it opened up another really unique culture and body of literature.   And a modern society relatively untainted by Christianity is very interesting.

      An acquaintance in Japan sent me a recording of her three grand daughters singing the Happy Birthday song to her.  In English.  The oldest one was 9 years old.  Sure, their pronunciation was terrible, but at least they had been exposed to it in school.

  •  Grew up in South Florida (0+ / 0-)

    Was exposed to Cubano Spanish starting at least in elementary school.

    I did not know it changes the brain. Perhaps that's why I feel so different from the people around me here in the Midwest, who are all afraid of those that speak different languages. There have been more of an influx of Spanish speaking people, so now there are more bilingual signs, making me feel more at home! :D

    Women create the entire labor force.
    Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 04:11:30 PM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site