I’d love to be a polyglot.

Imagine being able to understand everybody around you, whether you were travelling on the London Underground (where, let’s face it, there are fewer English speaking passengers than their are visitors from all corners of the world) or on the other side of the world like – Japan, for example.  I think it would be absolutely amazing!

I’ve never felt so comforted than when I’ve overheard a couple from Cape Town, speaking Afrikaans whilst shopping in Vienna (yes, we had a chat!), or overhearing French whilst mooching around Venice.  You can imagine how I feel when I overhear a Scottish accent when in a far flung land :)

Imagine how our understanding of different cultures could improve if we all understood the  nuances that different languages have to offer.  We all know the concept of “Lost in Translation”; I’d like to improve my chances of being more than just a tolerable tourist – and, equally, a more welcoming host in my own country.

Even though I can understand and converse (mostly with children) quite happily in Afrikaans, I am by no means fluent.  I love the idea of improving my French, but realise that it will take a little more dedication than I have previously shown.  I have also worked out that the method by which I learned French at school is vastly different to the method by which I learned Afrikaans.  At school, French was quite boring, and heavily based on reading and writing.  Afrikaans was learnt by being thrown in at the deep end i.e. immersion.

This year, for Christmas, my husband and I exchanged the gift of language.  He wants to get to grips with French (handy for work in West Africa, although we’ve somehow managed to get along OK for the past 6 years – albeit heavily dependent on our bilingual administrator!!)  I also want to nail French, but as there is no point in language course duplication, I’ve opted to tackle a third language: Spanish.

Spanish is considered to be the world’s third most influential language after English and French, and is the third most commonly used language on the Internet after English and Mandarin. Spanish is second most studied language and second language in international communication, after English, in the world (Source: Wikipedia)

Hola, que tal?

I’ve dabbled with Spanish in the past – learning a few essential phrases to get around Argentina and Chile, but I’ve gone and forgotten everything; not too surprising when I realise that it was over a decade ago when I travelled there!

Ideally, I would love to learn a language in the country of origin.  Alas, time and resources prevent me from spending a year in Provence, six months in Seville or a month or two in Tuscany.  That’s life – so what are the other options?

Due to frequent travel, we are unable to commit to a language course offered through an education programme in a classroom so, instead, we’ve looked at podcasts via iTunes.  I’ve amassed an almost obsessive collection of them in my bid to get to grips with French, but somehow I can’t quite get absorbed by them.  I’ve tried textbooks and am inclined to cure any trace of insomnia the minute I pick them up; my husband’s snores tell me he’s no better ;)

After seeing some adverts on TV, we looked into software programmes.  There are quite a number out there and we read comparisons and reviews until we were satisfied in making our decision.  Perhaps not everyone’s choice (and I’ll admit, a little on the pricey side) but for our needs and our preferred method of learning (that is, immersion) we’ve plumped for Rosetta Stone.

Last night, I set up my headphones/microphone (included in the package) and undertook Lesson 1.  I was a little surprised in that there was no explanation given (there is a help section, don’t worry!!), and there was NO ENGLISH AT ALL!  I guess that’s the nature of immersion ;)

The second you begin the course, you are thinking and reacting in the language you are learning.  You don’t learn by translating from English, but from linking phrases in Spanish (or, in my husband’s case, French) with pictures.  From absolute beginners level you build up your vocabulary as though you were a child learning your own mother tongue: by association.

I realised, with a score of 97% (personally, I’m delighted), that not only was this method of learning going to permeate my grey matter, but I felt I was transported to another place whilst I was learning.  No longer was I staring at my computer screen.  No longer was I sitting at the kitchen table in Scotland.  I was elsewhere.  I was speaking Spanish!  I was linking phrases with the correct settings – and today I can still remember the content of that lesson :)

Remarkable!

Even though I am temporarily grounded, I feel that the option of travelling is still very much open to me on a daily basis.  I’m exploring without having to leave home; I’m travelling without moving.  It’s made me realise that, despite being unable to jet off, I can still enjoy the thrill of a different culture through learning a new language.

2012 is going to be GREAT!

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