Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tower of Babel

I know enough Spanish to hobble together a few words and be understood and to understand.

But my Russian, Portuguese and Arabic are sadly lacking. I know "nyet". And "jihad" but don't think it prudent to work that one into conversation.

Oh but how I envy those who speak a second language. I am told I spoke German when I was two, courtesy of German nannies who worked cheap in exchange for the opportunity to meet single American servicemen while babysitting.

I took two years of Spanish in high school and three in college, but without daily exposure my skills have eroded away. Strangely though, I can still read Spanish well enough to get the gist of it. Usually.

Jason once interviewed a lady who speaks something like ten different languages and can read a ton more, and stuff like Old Icelandic and Ancient Norse, not just normal French or Spanish. I could barely wrap my mind around the idea of having such skill and intelligence.

And I get irked with people who blithely toss off that new immigrants should learn English. Like it's just a day or so of work to do so. Most of them are trying. Trying very hard. But damn, have you ever really tried to learn a language?

It ain't that easy. But then, maybe I'm just dumb.

Thor sez: But you speak fluent Feline!

1 comment:

jaz said...

Actually, there is an easy way to learn a second language: be introduced to it in early childhood (i.e. elementary school or before) and keep using it throughout life.

That's the reason that so many Europeans are fluent in English as well as their native tongue.

Of course, here in the USA, we wait until kids are practically in high school to offer second languages and then wonder why it doesn't stick as well.