46 | To Be a Cunning Linguist

64 Arts

This post is part of our ongoing exploration of the 64 Arts. 

Oh, come on, it had to be said!

Learning a language is not just about training your tongue, or the translator in your brain, it’s also about training your ears to pick up on different sound combinations. That’s probably why a lot of language programs focus on the spoken bits than the written, at least at first.

Deciding that now is as good a time as any to learn a (spoken) language, and not necessarily wanting to invest in a Berlitz or Rosetta Stone-level product, went poking around the ‘Net to see what sort of free programs were available. First came up Fluent In 3 Months (which I’d heard of before) but it seems to be more of a strategy than an actual language course, and I was looking for something a bit more direct. (And the fact that Benny of fi3m looks alarmingly like my first husband didn’t help at all!)

Next on the list was Duolingo–a 100% free language learning site, offering a dozen languages, and incorporates gamification in the form of XP, in-site currency, and leveling up. I do believe that’s right up my alley!

So far I’ve only covered the first two basics sessions and the beginning phrases. I’m still stumbling over verb conjugations (the bane of my existence, I swear!), but I could probably get my point across at a newsstand or apple cart with the 36 words they say I’ve learned. I’m not exactly warming up my passport, yet, but I have hope.

I chose to learn Italian on this go-round. Todd thought it was because it was closest to Latin–think again. While, yes, all of the Romance languages have their common roots in Latin, it’s not nearly enough to make it a skate-job, even if I remembered more than I do! We’ve got a fairly sizable Hispanic population in Florida–the farther south you go you almost have to be bilingual (so I’ve been told) to get a decent job with Cuba and Puerto Rico so nearby, so Spanish is probably the most common language option in local high schools. I used to want to learn French when I was a kid and tried to teach myself from this old record set of Mom’s with these pretty blue and white-striped books, but I couldn’t stick with it.

No, it has more to do with where I eventually hope to travel. England and Ireland are tying for the top of my list, but some form of English is spoken commonly there–I could get by. Italy is next and I have a feeling I’d need to know the language more there. Plus, Italian always sounds so melodic and beautiful compared to, say, French which seems to require a permanent sneer, or German which is just so guttural! Of course, if I opted to learn Danish I could practice with a local friend, but I think my next language after Italian will be Japanese. Not only would I like to be able to watch the little anime I do watch without relying quite so heavily on subtitles, I’ve heard they have much simpler verb conjugations and you aren’t going to accidentally call someone something very not nice if you don’t use the right inflection. (I was in an ESOL-heavy home room part of middle school and we undertook trading languages. My partner was Vietnamese and I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that there were routinely 8 different meaning to a 2-letter word depending on your tone!)

Audience participation time: How many languages do you speak and is there one you’d like to learn?

And if you decide to sign up on Duolingo, look me up!