That first time you realize you’re actually having a conversation in another language. The default is to attribute it to external factors, because it can’t actually be possible that you’re carrying on a conversation in another language. I mean, as a gringa that doesn’t happen. So we’ll just need to sleep on this. Tu primera vez.
Americans don’t learn languages. But I’ve never had the quintessential American sentiment of “well, in ‘Murica we speak English!”
Closing yourself off to just one language, is closing yourself off to a whole other world. I hate that I’ve grown up in a world that hasn’t valued language. Ever since I can remember I’ve been interested in learning another language. When I was 8 my parents signed me up for a Spanish immersion class (which leads to me eventually writing this blog), and at the age of 10 I decide I was going to learn Lithuanian. I printed out a bunch of pages from the 1999 version of the internet so I could learn Lithuanian. Somehow that dream didn’t work out.
So I settled for Spanish for a while. Then I decided I wanted to learn German. So I took a German class my senior year of high school. My ancestry is German and Germany is an awesome country so learning it has always interested me. Then I randomly tested into 300 level Spanish in college, so I let that dream go. Then I decided to learn Danish. That didn’t work out. Then when I lived in Mexico I decided Spanish just wasn’t for me, so I sat in a Mexican coffee shop trying to take French lessons online, because suddenly French was for me. Then that didn’t work out and I was going to learn American Sign Language. That was finally it. I had found my language. Huh, somehow, that wasn’t for me either.
Suddenly I realized I was just stupid. I couldn’t learn a language. How could I learn a language when I had spent my whole life pining over something yet never having achieved it? Since I printed out that paper titled “Lietuviski” I knew that I wanted to be able to speak another language fluently (the word fluent in itself has multiple meanings which I will get to eventually). Even as I sit here writing this I look over and the first thing I see is a book about the history of English (which I still need to read, but my family has questioned me as to why I own this book to begin with). But the point is, I’m not stupid. I can learn a language. But it’s hard to learn a language without knowing how to learn a language. Growing up in the U.S., nobody knows how to learn a language so you don’t really have anyone to guide you through the process. And apart from that, you don’t really have anyone around you who is fully supportive of this process, because we speak English. Learning a language here is a very light hobby. You don’t actually ever take it seriously. And when you do nobody knows what to say or think.
The point is that I’m taking it seriously now. And I can see real progress as a result of my efforts. And in the end I’ll really have to learn two languages – because Chileans don’t speak Spanish, cachai?