Years ago, I convinced myself that I would never learn a foreign language.
It started in Los Angeles in the 70s, when I in Junior High School, finally got a course in Spanish. It was a required subject, and we all jumped into it, waiting to learn, as it were. The down side of learning something so foreign as language, relies a lot on the subject matter, and how the teacher presents it. Her expectations as to pronunciation, were on the extreme side, at least that’s what I thought, and not very conducive to encouragement and praise.
Suffice to say, my first attempt at language was a dismal failure, which led me to believe that I would be unable to learn another language, ever! Those thoughts affected my choice of courses later on through my University years. I always steered away from that line of thinking, choosing other subjects to fulfill the amount of credits needed to move on.
Later on in the 70s I developed an interest in Botany. I set out to learn as many plant names as possible, but as it resembled learning a language, I took no precautions. I used a bit of time making flash cards with the name on one side, and the picture on the other. I had seen this technique used with students who were trying to remember the name of shrubs and trees while studying to be Landscapers. I’m afraid to say that my efforts in making those cards proved to be a waste of time, as I was able to remember both names, pictures and other related facts without really trying.
As with so many other hobbies, Botany soon became an obsession with me. I purchased countless books on the subject and delved into the Botanical naming process, its history and references to historical discovery in its relation to California. You see, I was surrounded by the Botany of California, which gave me ample possibilities to practice and learn.
My obsessions were not lost only on me, as I took a number of apprentices along the way. My sister and her daughters were the obvious choices, and later my now Wife fell into my learning whirlwind. It still hadn’t occurred to me that memory and learning were a strong side of my personality, which means that if I believed in myself back then, then learning foreign language would have found its true place in my life.
It finally came to a head, when my now Wife appeared on the scene being a nanny from Denmark. The thought of learning a foreign language finally appealed to me so much that I threw myself into it, like my other obsessions throughout time.
Learning you see has no limits especially when the time and other conditions are right.
I learned Danish within a year, with the main difference being that I had moved to Denmark and was surrounded by the language. My teachers and the people around me provided the necessary positive input that probably would have made all the difference, way back when in that Spanish Class in Los Angeles.
I didn’t stop with Danish, having to learn Spanish and German while at Business College. I also dabbled in Russian for a while, and am now toying with the idea of speaking French.
I know that my age now plays a part in learning new things, as does the fact that I live in Denmark and not France. Enthusiasm and curiosity are the two driving factors that draw me into new subjects, and are the things that keep me coming back for more.
In 2014 I decided to re-learn German which made German my main topic during that year. I even have read all of the Harry Potter books in German, ending up having to order the last 3 books from Germany to complete this task. I use some of my leisure time watching German TV shows on the Internet, using German subtitles to help me with my understanding.
The perils, you see, are out there just waiting for us, when we finally take the plunge. I am still open to new ideas, but only accept them in regards to my age and life experience, which some might consider to be limiting in itself.
My goals are to continue learning, as long as I can. “What are your reasons for learning: German, French,…..?” are what others ask me from time to time. Do I really have to justify that with an answer?
I think not…..