Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Lingua Franca

We've got Agatha Award Nominations!
Hank Phillippi Ryan, Best Contemporary Novel for Trust Me and Rhys Bowen, Best Historical Novel for Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding.
Congratulations, Reds! 


Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: No. I'm not inviting you all into the gates of hell. That famous phrase is, when translated, the one part of Dante's Inferno almost everyone knows: "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." Dorothy Sayers translated it to: "Lay down all hope, you that go in by me," while Robert Pinsky's 1994 version is, "Abandon all hope, you who enter here." Yes, I have four different translations of The Inferno, three of my own and one belonging to the Smithie. Why? Because I am a great big nerd who loves The Inferno but who cannot speak or read Italian.

Okay, that's not entirely true.  A summer spent touring and working on an archeological dig in Tuscany while in college left me the ability to ask for basic foodstuffs: "Quaranta grammi di formaggio, per favore," the nearest lav: "Dov'è il bagno?" and enough phone-Italian to get the receiver passed on to someone who spoke English (in the days before everyone had phones in their pockets, of course.) Unfortunately, Dante never wrote, "Pronto! Posso palare con Professori Evett?" so my expertise is useless when it comes to parsing his great work.

The thing is, I'm pretty good at languages. I still retain remnant German words from three and a half years in Stuttgart as a child, and I can pronounce written German well enough to fool you into thinking I know what I'm saying. I studied French for eleven years straight, from sixth grade through the end of college, and if I moved to Paris for a few months, I think I could regain fluency. I have a surprisingly large Latin vocabulary despite never having taken a single class - although I spent plenty of time helping all three of my kids with their own Latin homework.  I can even toss out some Spanish phrases - no, not just "Mas cerveza."

So compared to many of my countrymen, I have foreign language chops. Sadly, in the global scheme of things, that's not saying much. Schoolchildren in Europe and Asia routinely begin learning a second language in the very earliest grades, while educated people are routinely fluent in three (including their native tongue.) Meanwhile, here in the US, in 2016 (the last date for such numbers) only 15% of public elementary schools offered language classes. Even in immigrant communities, where you might expect a strong bilingual foundation, fluency drops dramatically each generation. Only one in ten grandchildren of immigrants can speak their grandparents' native tongue.

Critics of the stubborn American  tendency to monoligualism usually point out how we're falling behind in science and international trade etc, etc. I always think of the literature we're missing out on. I remember the first time I got a French poem - comprehended it as a whole thing, without mentally translating it into English first. It was amazing. What would it be like to see plays from Spain's Golden Age of theater in the original? To read War and Peace in Russian? To follow Der Rosenkavalier without surtitles?

So perhaps I should take the plunge and finally start those Italian lessons I've been thinking about for the past...thirty-five years.  Because while this is lovely...

We climbed the dark until we reached the point 
Where a round opening brought in sight the blest
And beauteous shining of the Heavenly cars
And we walked out once more beneath the stars

...it's not this.

Tanto ch'i' vidi de la cose belle
che porta 'l ciel, per un pertugio tondo
E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.


Dear readers, do you have a second language? Would you like to learn one? Let us know in the comments!

87 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. While I remember an odd phrase or two from my high school Latin and French classes, I am definitely not fluent in either. I do slightly better with what I remember from my ASL classes, but, again, it’s far less than I wish I remembered . . . .

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    1. That's the thing - you have to use it or you lose it. I was really good at French, and now I stumble over common phrases.

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  3. I always admire people who are fluent in more than one language. Sadly, that is not me.

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    1. I once had a friend who had 14 languages, at varying degrees of fluency. It blew my mind.

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  4. I have several, too. I had four years of French and German before being immersed in Brazilian Portuguese for a year at a young seventeen. Kept studying German all the way through college, went to Japan for two years and came home speaking okay, and have spent a lot of time in France and former French colonies in West Africa. Portuguese is still my best language, albeit a little rusty these days.

    I studied language acquisition in grad school, and it's quite true that people lose their ability to learn a language perfectly simply by immersion by about adolescence. I saw both my sons pick up French effortlessly in Mali within months of being in a French-language pre school and kindergarten. It's crazy not to teach languages in elementary schools. I always love hearing of kids who are in bilingual schools and come home fluent in Spanish or Mandarin.

    Go for those lessons, Julia! I read Kafka and Hesse in German in college - it makes a difference.

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    1. Let me use a little German then to say Gratulation for your Agatha Award nomination for Best Historical Novel! Wir sind hocherfreut!

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  5. I do not have a 2nd language. I took French in high school but was an abysmal failure at it. In fact, the only thing I know how to say in French is "I can't speak French". And I learned that from my math teacher.

    I suppose it might be helpful if I knew a second language, but if I'm being honest I don't really WANT to know a real second language.

    Now if you could teach me how to be fluent in Klingon or Elvish, that I might be interested in.

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    1. I think it's amazing those invented languages have been so fleshed out by linguists that people can actually learn them and use them the same way you'd learn Italian or Swedish.

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    2. Julia and the made up languages are usually far more interesting than those real ones that give me so much trouble.

      At one point, I even owned the official Klingon dictionary by Marc Okrand. And there used to be an immersive Klingon language camp somewhere in the midwest I think too.

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  6. Growing up, and this will show my age, we started learning Spanish in the third grade! We had it everyday and in eighth grade we had a choice of Spanish or German. In high school, it became Spanish, German, French, Italian or Latin. It was mandatory!
    My oldest two girls were schooled overseas on military bases. Once again, foreign language was an everyday thing. Fast forward to my last three girls, all attending school here in the States and slowly foreign language became only an elective in high school. It is a very sad state of learning we have here in the States.
    Thus said, even at my age I want to learn French and Italian. I have no idea where I would use them, yet to read books in them would be amazing!

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    1. Foreign language education is in a very rough spot in our country. My kids took Latin in elementary school, but that was available because they went to parochial school. It seems so counterintuitive when you think how globally connected our world has become.

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  7. It is really a shame I dropped out of French III in high school. I knew I would have to take the regents exam and honestly we were learning nothing in that class. It was combined with Latin III and since there were 7 of those students and only 2 French we were pretty much ignored. The teacher, a Haitian who somehow found himself in upstate NY, asked us each marking period what our grade should be. Evidence we were really in trouble if we expected to learn anything. Now all I know is the odd phrase here and there.
    Yes, languages should be learned when very young which means the schools here need to do a better job in the elementary grades.

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    1. Your experience is proof there's a lot more to teaching a language than just being a native speaker, Judi!

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  8. I am the product of a rural Missouri school system, where the only language class I had to take was Spanish in the eighth grade. In those dim and distant days, there were no native Spanish speakers in our community, and very little of the vocabulary stuck with me. I did get a sense of the underlying architecture, however, and have found that I can kinda sorta hack my way through reading simple things like a Spanish language newspaper. I have no fluency at all in speaking to my yard guys or eavesdropping on the rapid-fire conversations I can hear whenever I go out in public. I don't know if Texas makes Spanish classes mandatory, but it should.

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    1. Gigi- I like that, "the underlying architecture" of a language. I don't remember that being stressed in my limited spanish class.

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    2. That's one of the reasons I insisted my kids take Latin, which they all did for a varying number of years. Latin is ALL about the architecture of language - which is a brilliant turn of phrase, Gigi!

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  9. Transported back to my worldly-wise HS senior self! Baudelaire, Verlaine, and TS Eliot. Naturally, I wrote wretched poetry in the same modernist vein. "Il pleure dans mon coeur/comme il pleut sur la ville;/Quelle est cette languer/Qui penetre mon coeur?"


    Now that I've raised three children, Dante looks very appealing. And another trip to Italy to practice my basic Italian.

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    1. Margaret, all teens write wretched poetry - composing it in another language elevates it quite a bit!

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  10. Smatterings of French from high school, I can still recite the entirety of Lesson One. Smatterings of Latin from high school and college from 50 plus years ago. A couple of years ago, I attempted conversational Brazilian Portuguese using Mango as I had a Brazilian neighbor and the daughter of my heart and her children are all bi-lingual. The neighbor and the daughter moved, the library stopped offering Mango for free. I still have a few phrases. The favorite: I’m sorry, but I only speak a little Portuguese.
    Technical glitches have kept me from commenting. Always a surprise to find that comment works! Thank you for all the interesting blogs and “conversations” to read, even if I am silenced.

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    1. Sorry you're having difficulties commenting, Elisabeth! Don't forget, you can also reach us on Facebook, where the daily post is up at both Jungle Red Writers and at the page of the individual Red hosting for the week.

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    2. Thanks for the reminder Julia.

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  11. There IS another trend out there, and it's bilingual programs that start in elementary school. My granddaughter is in one (Spanish/English) in a public elementary school in Brooklyn. My town has had a French/English bilingual program for the last 20+ years. I took French (5 years) and Latin (2) (Gallia in tres partes divisa est... or words to that effect) and learned a passable amount of Spanish when I was teaching in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood. In foreign languages my husband and I function as a team - he talks, I listen to the response and try to translate. (He's one of those guys who can't walk and chew gum.)

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    1. Sounds like great team work, Hallie! I'm glad to hear there are public schools out there stepping up to the plate with early language education. It's tough - a lot of school budgets just don't stretch that far.

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  12. I had two years of Spanish in high school and one semester of Latin (which I loved) in college, but I’ve always felt uneducated because I’m not fluent in a second language. I tried learning Irish in Duo Lingo but the app wanted me to spell words IN IRISH! Seriously, what’s with all those vowels?

    Our university now has free access Mango and I am finally learning Latin. Yay! Veni, vidi, vici.

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    1. Are you speaking it, or writing it? I used to argue with my kids because they pronounced Latin the academic way (laid down by 19th century German scholars) and I spoke Church Latin, which sounds like an actual romance language. Seriously, how can anyone think Caesar said, "Weni, widi, wiki"?

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    2. Julia, my Latin professor pronounced those words with a v, not a w, so do I. I guess that means I’m using Church Latin.

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  13. I am in love with the idea of knowing more languages! It makes such a difference. I can manage in French and German and Spanish, haltingly, but manageable. Rudimentary, but helpful! And the longer I am around it, the easier it gets. My brain likes it, I think, it’s like learning a code. It simply takes a lot of practice, though. My sister ‘Nancy is brilliantly effortlessly bilingual in Spanish — and it’s so fascinating to watch her speak Spanish. Her entire body language and attitude changes.
    Sometimes I dream in French, and wonder, when I wake up, if I really was speaking so fluently. Or whether they were actually real words, or I was just dreaming they were words. I wonder if our brains know more than we think they do, and whether fear gets in the way.

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    1. Fear definitely gets in the way. Youngest is quite good at languages - she's studied Latin, French Arabic and is now learning Spanish - but she FREEZES when she has to speak aloud. It's a common human experience - we don't want to open our mouths and sound "dumb."

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    2. I relate to that. I was totally humiliated when someone starting speaking Spanish to me in an elevator and I froze and couldn't answer anything. My Spanish teacher was also in that elevator.

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    3. And yet--take five seconds, and you totally understand it. But yes, it is somehow intimidating.

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  14. I was pleased to realize a few years ago that I can still read Spanish well enough to understand it. Not sure how I'd do with the spoken word. I used to be pretty good (read Don Quixote in the original Spanish in college), but...use it or lose it, as they say.

    Both my kids started studying Spanish in kindergarten.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Yay on you, Mary/Liz! I really ought to start reading in French. I'm sure that would get my fluency level back up in no time.

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  15. I took French in Kindergarten and 4th grade - two times we lived in Louisiana - and not again until high school. After I saw the movie "Charade", I thought I would major in French so I could be an interpreter at the U.N. like Audrey Hepburn. Sadly, I wasn't good enough for that, but we read Le Pétit Prince in French IV, and I can remember the first few lines of one of the dialogues we had to memorize and recite in class!

    My godchild is in a magnet school program where another language is required, and has been taking Spanish since Kindergarten and is now in 8th grade. I'm not sure how fluent she is, but it would definitely beat the two phrases I know: "May I have a cold beer, please?" and "Where is the bathroom?" (We can both sing in Church Latin, though!)

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    1. You know, you can get through a lot of the world if you can get a cold beer and find the bathroom!

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    2. You are so right, Julia! I will keep that in mind!

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  16. I spoke French, German, Italian, and English at home as a child and then had eight years of Latin and French in school (as well as pre-Vatican II years of Mass). Can I speak any of it today-nope. Our home in Maine is in a French the St. John Valley where nearly everyone is English/French bilingual. I can understand, read and write, but don't have the courage to speak. I suspect if I were without option the languages would come back, but so far, that hasn't happened.

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    1. Kait, I mentioned that above responding to Hank. The biggest thing that holds everyone back is the fear of making silly mistakes when we speak. It can utterly stymie language acquisition.

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    2. So true. My biggest fear is vocabulary and tense loss. My French was last updated in the groovy hippie days, my vocabulary dates from that time, and everything I speak easily is in the present tense.

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  17. Army brat here. When I was between the ages of 2 to roughly 4 1/2 we lived on Okinawa. We had household help, Hatsuko and Haruko, and I'm told I spoke Japanese. When we were transferred state side and ended up in tiny Waynesboro, PA the language died.

    I struggled through two years of Spanish in high school with a teacher who had such a thick southern drawl that correct pronunciation was out the window.

    I've heard good things about Duo Lingo and I may go after Spanish again. Who knows? I might just be bilingual again.

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    1. That's how I got my German, Lyda - lived in the country and yes, we had a German maid/babysitter who spoke German with us. My sister, who was five when we were posted to Stuttgart, came back to the states fully bilingual - but none of it stuck.

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  18. My everyday langage is French (canadian) . I learned English at school and had the chance to practice while doing student's provincials exchanges. Also learned Latin for four years, not remembering a lot but it is a good base for langages.

    As an adult, I had not many occasions to speak English and as I did not want to lose it, I decided to , at least, read in English.
    Here, a lot of books are translated from English to French but I soon discovered that reading a book in the langage it was written was more interesting and enlightening than reading it translated.
    I also took conversation courses to be fluent enough to travel .
    To comment here takes time and effort but I am happy to be ale to do so.

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    1. We're happy to have you comment here as well, Danielle!

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  19. Growing up in UK the Continent is so near that I spent time in France, Germany, Italy. I took 10 years if French in school and 3 in college, also majored in German. And 5 years of Latin! My German is still as good as my English, my French pretty good... Enough to have long discussions about Trump in France last summer, and I get by in Italian and Spanish, oh, and in Welsh too. And I love reading poetry in other languages

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    1. Rhys, we're going to have you lead the Jungle Red Writers International Getaway Tours!

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    2. Rhys, among my favorite things about your Constable Evans series was learning new Welsh words. Loved the glossary.

      Diana

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  20. Yes, we most certainly need to learn early! I took two years of French in high school, and our Belgian teacher told me I had the best accent in the class (one of my classmates had a French mother, too). My pronunciation is still better than so-so, but I have no idea what I'm saying any more.

    When we went to Paris, my mother, two daughters, a son-in-law, and a baby grandson, my daughters--both of whom had at least four years of French, were seemingly struck dumb, and let me do all the talking. With my very rusty, decades-old muddle. When my husband and I went together we did better. He took French for five years, including in college. He has the worst accent in the world, but he understands far more. He would say things, and I would translate for befuddled French people. Very comical.

    When we went to Tanzania I started trying to learn a little Swahili, which is more widely spoken than most other African languages. An underlying structure would have helped a lot. But it's a lovely sounding language, with charming phrases. My favorite: "la la es salaama", a nighttime blessing of "sleep peacefully". Of course everyone now knows "Hakuna matata", Swahili for "no worries".

    Our neighbors at the new house speak French fluently because the wife is native Quebecois. She challenges me to speak more French, so maybe I'll gain a little more to my diminishing repertoire.

    One of our daughters was in the Munich Sister Cities Exchange, with a two-week program on each end. It was embarrassing to speak to 14-year old German children who could converse in three to six languages each. Of course, Europe is different. If every American state had its own language we might feel more compelled to learn other ways to communicate.

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    1. Your last comment is very true, Karen. When I was researching the facts about foreign languages in the US, I learned there are many areas where less than 5% of the population speaks another language - in part because you can get away with it! There are no barriers in your way if you're monolingual in many parts of our country.

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    2. Agreed that learning a second language in the early years is the best way. Some families send their children to language immersion schools for kindergarten.

      And there are some parts of the USA where many people cannot read nor write.

      Diana

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  21. Oh languages, how I love them! My mother spoke beautiful English but would murder anything else. However my father growing up in CA in the early 20th century learned (in class and from neighbors) a myriad of languages. His grandparents and parents were Danish (although his parents didn't use it with him, wanting their children to be Americans). He learned German, Latin (well enough remembered to coach me through Caesar), and French (in class and two summers at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris). They urged us to learn, so Latin in school plus years and years of French culminating in my almost PhD ( no dissertation). Along the way I some Spanish and Italian (I can read both OK) and German which I can read and speak well enough to get my husband and two friends around Berlin and Prague. I have found that because I have had so much languages, I make what I call "leaps of faith". I listen , I read, and then I leap to an assumption of what it means and usually I am correct. I still read and correspond with my French friends. The opportunity to converse comes less often but after about a day in France, I am fine.
    I hate that language is losing out in schools although many charter schools here do offer a second language. In most of Europe, students start a second language in primary school and the another two years later.

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    1. I admire your breadth and depth, Atlanta! It makes me wonder - we describe some people as "good at languages" - but is it a natural proclivity? Or is it that with every new language you attempt, you strengthen your language abilities?

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    2. Some of each perhaps. I had encouragement, but I have a good ear as they say. My father had it. I can also sing and am good at math which, when I was teaching, I noticed, sometimes went together with language.

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  22. My public school didn't offer languages except for Latin (which I took for 2 years) in junior high so I didn't start French until high school. But when I went on a European tour after my junior year in high school, my rudimentary French did allow me to do a little communicating (for example, when I was out on a "date" with a cute French waiter). Maybe that's why I decided to major in French (and minor in German), even though I never had a clear career goal in mind. I just enjoyed languages.

    Because I loved Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA) so much I opted not to spend my junior year abroad, which would have gone a long way to improve my spoken French. And when I graduated, I started working as a secretary until I fell into my Human Resources career, which suited me well.

    But I never lost my love of French, and I can still read it pretty well. Speaking it fluently is another matter entirely. Every so often, I bust out my "French in Action" tapes/DVDs, which are old but excellent. But I am thrilled to hear a French accent whenever I encounter it.

    In 2016 my husband and I took a trip to Paris, and I excitedly tried to brush up my French language skills. I even made flash cards for my husband--just enough that he wouldn't embarrass himself. And even though most of the French we encountered spoke some English, they generously allowed me to stumble around speaking my (still rudimentary, unfortunately) French in restaurants, hotels, and pharmacies. What a thrill!

    I would love to join a French conversation group with the local AAUW, but I'm nervous about it. Maybe I should start brushing up again.

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    1. Another great spot to brush up on language skills - I don't know if you're in the age range, Margie - is your local senior learning center. Here in Portland, we have OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) affiliated with the University of Southern Maine. They offer language classes and people can start up conversational groups just by volunteering.

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    2. I'm in the age range,k Julia. Thanks for the suggestion--I'll check it out.

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  23. I love Italian - I think it's the most beautiful language. My Spanish is rusty since I've left my library days behind me, but I studied it for five years and I used to do story time and assist teaching classes for computer users at the library in Spanish and when I travel to Mexico it usually comes back pretty fast. In college, I devoted myself to studying Russian and I can still hear the female voice from the language lab to "povtorite pozhaluysta" in my head. The hooligans went to a Spanish immersion elementary and middle schools, so their days were half in English and half in Spanish. One of them has achieved the coveted biliteracy while the other opted to study Japanese in high school. When people asked me why I put them in language immersion instead of a STEM school, my answer was because math and mckinlays don't mix but also, I wanted to give them the global perspective that seems sadly lacking in the U.S. They are well traveled so that helps, too, but I really feel like their generation has to think more globally and less nationally. We'll see if it proves true.

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    1. I think that was a brilliant choice, Jenn, and I wish I had had that option for my kids.

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    2. Weirdly, I was traveling in Italy when I made the choice. I looked around at all of these people, speaking so many different languages and the choice was clear :) We were very lucky.

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  24. I struggled so much in high school learning foreign languages (Latin and Spanish). And I haven't really used either one in real life despite living in So Cal.

    Honestly, I think that's one reason we don't teach foreign languages young. We don't use them that much in the US. In Europe and Asia, countries with other languages are sometimes only a few miles away, so you will use it in your every day life. Here, that's not as true. And since English is, currently, the universal language of business, people learn our language, not the other way around.

    Should we be rethinking this? Absolutely! But I'm guessing that is the thinking behind where we currently are.

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    1. I think you're absolutely right on that, Mark.

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  25. Just want to say a big CONGRATULATIONS to Hank and Rhys for their Agatha nominations! They are both on short lists and that's tremendous. YAY!

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  26. I learn languages very easily. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten most of them because I haven’t used them, and I will always regret this. In high school I studied Latin and French, and loved both of them. In college I studied French again, loved it and excelled at it. A year or so after I graduated from college, I enrolled at a Berlitz language school (I don’t know if they’re still around) and within about six months was pretty good at Spanish. Spanish remains my all-time favorite language. I could listen to it all day. But I haven’t used it, so I could never have a conversation in the language. I’m probably better at reading Spanish than French. This conversation today makes me want to study Spanish again!

    DebRo

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    1. We may have enough interest to start a Jungle Reds study group, DebRo!

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    2. Julia, I love the idea of a JRW study group!!

      DebRo

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    3. I think there is still a Berlitz language school.

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  27. CONGRATULATIONS REDS ON THE AWARDS NOMS! Shouting intended :)

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  28. Shalom Reds. A while back, I was in Israel working and studying Hebrew. I have more than a few stories about my attempts at conversational. One late afternoon, I boarded a city bus traveling by myself from the Western Wall to a new friends apartment. I sat down in the front of the bus next to an “ultra-orthodox” man. He engaged me in conversation but only in Hebrew as I think he had limited English. He asked me all sorts of questions about myself. I explained to him that mother was Jewish but my father was not. When he asked what they were doing currently, I said they committed suicide. He understood right away partly from my body language that that was not what I meant to say and gently corrected me to say they had separated and divorced. It took perhaps two hours before I realized what I had said and was very embarrassed after the fact.

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  29. Congratulations Reds on the Agatha Nominations! I am laughing because I was in the 4th grade when I wanted to learn French. A teacher from France was visiting our class. Our teacher asked us if we could guess which country she was from and I said France? Everyone was surprised! Our teacher asked me how I knew. I had been looking at an art coffee table book about France several weeks before the visit. I saw a photo of the Mona Lisa painting at the Louvre. I didn't know that Mona Lisa was Italian nor did I know that the artist was Italian. I said that the lady looked like Mona Lisa with long black hair and they had similar eyes.

    Someone told me that I had to learn English first when I wanted to buy a French English dictionary. I finally took French in high school. Unfortunately I lagged behind my classmates who started foreign language classes in the 6th grade or middle school (depending on which public school they attended). I did not start learning Spanish and French until high school (I had to petition to be allowed to take these classes). I always enjoy learning new languages. That is unusual for my countrymen to learn a second language. I remember visiting Canada and they had English and French languages!

    Diana

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    1. Diana, forgive me if I have this wrong, but aren't you hearing impaired? It would take so much more to learn a foreign language, I think, when one is unable to hear.

      A friend's boyfriend is deaf since middle school, and he can read lips in four languages. He blows me away.

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    2. Yes, I have a great deal of hearing loss. With bilateral cochlear implants, it makes a great deal of difference.

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  30. What a great post, Julia. I had Spanish from elementary school into junior high. I also spent a lot of time in Mexico growing up, as well as a summer living in Mexico City when I was eighteen. I still understand a good bit but am very rusty. I did Duo Lingo in Spanish for a while. But while it makes the most sense for me to improve and use my Spanish (large Hispanic population here) and it is a gorgeous language, I have always really wanted to speak French or Italian. I bought Rosetta Stone in Italian a few years ago and have never opened it!! I need a plan. Probably I should work on Spanish first. Those of you who are multi-lingual, does it get easier to learn subsequent languages? I also had one semester of French, and read a lot about France and French cooking.

    We have bi-lingual elementary school just down the street. I've done some volunteering there and it's great. I think all children should learn at least one other language starting early, and for us in the Southwest, Spanish is so important.

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    1. Couldn't agree more. I grew up in southern California, started high school in 1959. "Foreign Language" was only available starting in high school, choice of Spanish or French. I found it very difficult, and was never good at it, barely passing the class. It would have been great to be exposed to and learn a second language when I was much younger!

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  31. Congratulations to Hank and Rhys, and to Edith Maxwell, too! I am proud to be a fan of all three of you!

    DebRo

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    1. Awww...thank you, dear DebRo! You are the dearest of dear pals.

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  32. Foreign languages are my bugaboo. I wish I could learn them. I had some Spanish forced on me in elementary school; also German which I volunteered for. German in high school. Spanish in college. I understand only a smattering of Spanish. I hear it as one long sound. I hear German as individual words. If you dictated in German I could write it down, not knowing the vocabulary but able to spell it. Spanish is just a string of sounds all connected. When I took Spanish in college I could either concentrate on pronunciation or sentence structure. But not both at the same time. It was all frustrating. Actually it still is frustrating! My husband is bilingual; he learned Spanish when his dad took a job in Mexico and they lived there for 5 or 6 years back in the sixties. I use him as my crutch when we are in a Spanish speaking situation. And in my dad's immortal words: "I didn't take Latin in school. Latin took me."

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  33. First, congratulations to Hank and Rhys and Edith for their Agatha nominations! So happy for you three amazing authors.

    I lament the fact that I am deficient in languages other than English. I had two years of Latin and two years of French in high school, but that didn't result in a pursuit of learning another language. Now I wish it had. I know I could still pursue it, and I haven't entirely given up on it, but I doubt it will happen. If I were to learn another language, it would be French or Italian. I love to listen to them, and I agree with you, Julia, that those verses sound much more intriguing in Italian. And, I am in awe of you that you are multi-lingual. What a wonderful talent to have, a capacity for languages.

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  34. My first language was English. When I lost my hearing, I HAD to learn a new language, because I could no longer hear spoken language. At the same time I learned Sign Language, I learned to read and write in the English language. Sign Language is like seeing pictures with no sounds.

    Now that I have bilateral cochlear implants with speech processors, I can hear spoken language and I can usually understand the speaker if it is one to one conversation. I still cannot talk on the phone. I think it is a Win-Win for me because despite not being able to talk on the phone (I have to see the face), more people can understand what I say and I can understand more of what people say compared to before the surgeries.

    Perhaps the necessity of learning Sign Language at the age of 2.5 helped me learn other languages besides English?

    Diana

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    1. Probably so.

      When I was teaching sewing in the early 1990's one of my students had deaf parents. If I needed to speak over the phone to her mother we used the intermediary (TDL? I can't remember the acronym). She could type and read over her phone, and the intermediary would speak what Laurie's mom had typed. Now, of course, we have text.

      They were an interesting family.

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    2. Karen, thank you for sharing.

      Diana

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  35. I took Spanish since 6th grade and majored in it at college. Unfortunately student teaching literally made me sick to my stomach so I didn't teach. I spent a month in Argentina to improve my Spanish and later used books and records before a trip to Mexico. I used books and records to learn German before trips to Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. I can still understand and read some. especially Spanish, but not really speak them anymore.

    I found that when I was learning German that I got Spanish words stuck in my head like I wanted to say hat in German but kept thinking sombrero. I also mixed articles from the two languages like das sombrero. I can understand a little of other romance and Germanic languages but not much. Also, when Shogun ran and only used Japanese with no subtitles, I learned a little Japanese. I think I forgot most of that.

    My friend from Laos speaks around 7 languages. She may not be fluent anymore in all of them. I think languages are very important. I remember understanding infinitives and gerunds much better in my Spanish classes than in my English ones.

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  36. I took two years of German in high school (many, many years ago) and I can still come up with things in German. I can read anything, even if I don't know what it means because it's phonetic, and say things with the right accent. :-)

    I have relatives in France and have been going there to visit rather regularly, but because they speak English (their first language and to me), I never really get to practice much French. I'm trying hard this year to learn some rudimentary French for my next trip, although my default foreign language thoughts still come in German.

    If every state spoke another language, Americans would speak more languages, too, as Mark mentions above. Without a doubt, the most useful foreign language to have in the US these days would be Spanish.

    janet

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