Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Foreign Language Acquisition... Fail!

I have never been much of a foreign language person. Something about my brain and learning style, I guess. In high school, I took German. This has served absolutely no purpose in my life, other than translating some scary music lyrics by a German heavy metal band. Even that was inexact: "I think they're saying something about blood, and then that word is 'hate'." Why did I spend 3 fruitful years of high school and one and a half of college "learning" German? Follow the high school logic here: everyone else I knew (except best friend, Andrea, who took French) was taking Spanish and lots of people knew Spanish, so I wasn't going to take Spanish. Therefore, German, because it seemed more obscure and alternative.

In college, I realized that the fact that everyone knows Spanish would make Spanish a desirable skill. Plus, I was majoring in sociology with the potential future career option of social work. So, I signed up for Spanish in my junior year of college. I made it 3 weeks before dropping. Why? I was in a Monday, Wednesday, Friday 8am Spanish class and I almost never made it to class on time. Hilarious looking back on it. It's not like I was staying up late studying or partying.

I managed to fake my way through college German - earning a whopping 1 semester of credit for my 3 years of high school German because of my poor performance on the German entrance exam. 

Now I understand the value of knowing other languages. My brain just isn't built that way.  I have a very poor recall for vocabulary.  I can read some German words and know what they mean, hear less German words and know what they mean, but remembering the words on my own to try to speak German. Nope.

(I actually have had much better recall with sign language, so any readers who know about multiple intelligences and brain workings may be able to give me some insight into myself upon hearing that.)

And now, preparing for Haiti, I find myself in a position where learning basic French expressions and some important phrases would be extremely beneficial.  I have no understanding at all of the French alphabet. How, for example, does Carrefour (which in my mind is pronouced "Car-4") come out as "Kah-foo"? Baffled.

I checked out a 3 CD set of basic French from the library, which also includes a little textbook. Let me tell you, the only thing more difficult than trying to learn a language is trying to learn a language by listening to a CD while also listening to the angelic sounds of two toddlers fighting over yogurt.

1 comment:

  1. Love the ending. :) My ESL students always told me they learned English by watching English TV. I took a French class at one job - we learned it at lunch. It was SO much easier with friends and a live person along with the CDs. Good luck! I am sure it will be easier when you are there.