Have you ever wanted to learn another language? Perhaps you want to woo a potential mate in their own tongue. Perhaps you’ve tried in the past and just couldn’t quite grasp the differences the language presented. Perhaps I should try and make this sound less like a terrible infomercial…
From kindergarten all the way up to Grade 9, I was required to take French. You’d think after 10 years of French classes that I would be fairly proficient in the language. Throw in the extra year I took in Grade 10 and you’d still be wrong.
Due to my apparent failure with the French language, I thought I was hopeless with any and all others. So I wasn’t too keen when I discovered that I needed at least one language credit to complete my degree. Fast-forward 5 months from September, and I’m actually doing okay in my attempts to learn German, so I thought I would examine what has made the difference.
- The Desire: While a language course most likely would not have been my first choice as an elective, I at least had my pick of languages. After my French debacle, I decided it would probably be best to avoid the romantic languages for now. Ever since Grade 3 when my friend Eva attempted to teach me German (I can’t apologize enough to her even to this day), I have found the language quite interesting. German is not as pretty as most others, but it definitely has an appealing rhythm to it. I feel that since I am learning a language I’m legitimately interested in, it has been that much easier.
- The Time: While I technically had French class every day for two semesters in high school, the amount of time we spent never seemed to be enough to solidify any of the concepts. While I only have 4 hours of German a week (two 2-hour classes), the longer periods allow me to learn a new concept and then put it into practice in class.
- Practice: In a high school setting, classes generally aren’t set up very well for the actual application of a language. Most of the time we would do exercises from textbooks or handouts, which was just learning by repetition. We were never given another context in which to use the language. With the extra time in lecture, I now have the opportunity to try out new words and apply them to something other than the textbook.
- Context: If you ever took a language course before post-secondary, you might have found the material (and sometimes the teacher) taking a very juvenile approach. The scenarios never seemed very age-appropriate, and therefore I never had any desire to attempt to use the language. Post-secondary language courses have a tendency to take their audience into account and (at least in the case of my German course) put forth scenarios that we might one day find ourselves in—for example, traveling.
- Culture: While it did come up every once in a while, the culture of France was never truly demonstrated to me in my 11 years of attempting to learn the language. This time around I have learned a great deal about Germany through film, music and the experiences of my TA (who just happens to come from Berlin). Placing the language within actual German culture has made it much more enjoyable.
While not every language course will reflect the one I am currently taking, I am glad that I still have a chance (however small it may be) to become bilingual. If I ever master German, I might possibly return to my efforts in French… though probably not.
Anyway, I have to return to Facebook. Turing 20 has become a real chore and I’m beginning to understand why some people put off responding to e-mails. It’s extremely tedious and they just keep piling up.