I took one year of French and four years of Spanish in school, but I never felt able to carry on any sort of real conversation. When we began traveling to Korea and my husband immediately learned a few key words, I realized that he picked up languages much easier than I. Just as I had learned, sometime in my late twenties, that I’m a visual person, I “learned” that I am not a language person. For the past twenty-plus years I’ve convinced myself that my brain isn’t wired to learn language like most people’s. I also was afraid to even attempt speaking in a foreign language for fear of being embarrassed by pronouncing a word incorrectly or using the wrong word. I had an Aha! moment a few months ago when a foreign speaking person said, “Thank you,” to me in English and I realized that I appreciated his effort; I did not feel ridicule that he didn’t say the words exactly right. So, I decided that on this trip I would attempt to say a few things in French and Italian while we’re in Paris and Rome (the London portion of the trip was easy). I’ve done remarkably well and have even found that I’m able to figure out many signs and notices written in French. I wish now that I’d made an attempt to brush up on my French before the trip. My daughter and I are traveling to Spain this summer with her Spanish teacher and a few other students. My plan is to go home after this current trip and pull out the Spanish CDs so that I can speak and understand as well as possible by the time we travel this summer.
I do Sudoku and math as brain exercises, but every time I see ‘learn a new language’ as a suggestion for brainwork, I say to myself, I’m not able to learn languages. Well, I see now that, like my daughter’s squats (see the March 10th entry), I have simply believed that I couldn’t learn languages. The reality is, it may not come naturally to me, but I can certainly learn – and learn I will, merci beaucoup!