Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No Useless Memorization

Countless studies (I don't know which ones, but I know they exist) show that it is much easier to learn a second language.  As a child.  At the same time you are learning your primary language.  Sadly this hasn't taken off in the US the way it should.  Primarily because we are a country that takes up a third of a continent in which 2/3 of the people speak English (give or take Quebec).  We're big.  We're powerful.  And others in the world consider us "lucky" that we know English since it gets you by in more places than ever (kind of like Visa, it's everywhere you want to be).  In other countries, kids start learning their second and third languages before they ever get to highschool. 

At Moline HS we had the choice of Spanish, French and German.   I chose German.  Why not Spanish?  Because too many others were taking it.    Where was my faithful VOLAR at that time?  It should have been whispering in my ear "Jen, think of all the places you can travel with Spanish."  In spite of my late start with foreign language, three years with one hour per day did cause German to stick.   In college I thought I'd take some more German...why not stay with what you know? 

I had one attempt at taking Spanish in college.  I was going on a spring break mission trip to Costa Rica and thought how great it would be to take a 101 level class.  Sadly, so many people test out of Spanish 101 from high school that they didn't have any sections that fit my schedule, so back to Deutsch I went.

Time passed.  I had yet to travel to a German speaking country.   I move to Lake Tahoe where the majority of employees speak Spanish.  Fortunately my great boss, "Cebolla," taught me hotel Spanish one event at a time.  We would walk down the buffets and I'd dutifully repeat all the vegetables on the salad bar.  I could ask for tables, chairs and tablecloths. 

In 2003 my mom and I went to Germany and did the language of our great great grandparents proud.  I was living in Indianapolis and foreign language was not needed....until I planned on a VBS trip to Mexico.  I found a class at the community college in hopes that I would finally get what I really needed.   Verbs.   

Recently on the radio there have been ads for a language system that touts "No useless memorization or repetitive drills."   Really?  Because memorization and drills is how we learned English as kids.   Remember spelling tests and sentence diagrams?  

Last year I started Spanish classes again.  I am currently working on learning my verbs in the preterite and imperfect past tenses.  And someday I will be just as bilingual as all those 10 year olds in Europe.

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