Change Yourself…Change The World.


Learning Another Language
September 23, 2009, 4:26 am
Filed under: Costa Rica

Hi friends,

I am back in Costa Rica! Pictures of my adventures in Panama will come soon.

It is strange to think that in one week I will be leaving for Paraguay, and that my adventures in Costa Rica will sadly end. I am not ready to leave this place yet. I have become used to all of the fresh fruit, salads with fresh, fresh avocado and hearts of palm at every meal, the platos del día in every restaurant, the Costa Rica center, the freshmen, the teachers, my homestay family… It is a beautiful place and I am so happy to be here. But it’s time to move on. Time to move on to Paraguay, to another adventure.

One of the things that I want to talk about is how proud I am of actually learning a new language. I have been traveling through Asia for the past year- I have learned tidbits of Mandarin, Thai, Hindi, Tibetan, Nepali, Bengali, and Turkish. I can say ‘Hello, how are you?’ in every one of these languages, and ‘Thank you,’ and probably ‘I am a girl’ or ‘I am 21 years old.’ I can say ‘I speak a little’ in Hindi, ‘My name is Ocean Cucumber’ in Thai, ‘No problem’ in Mandarin, ‘I am a student of Global College’ in Bengali, and a slew of terrible curse words in Tibetan. What I CAN’T do is actually converse in a language other in English.

Before I left the United States, I never really thought this a problem. The majority of people in the US speak one language, and only one language: English. Why necessarily learn another one?

Well, since I came out into the wide world, I have since then felt very ashamed and almost stupid for only speaking English. Pretty much everyone I have met outside of the US speaks at least one more language than their mother tongue. My entire Tibetan family is fluent in three languages. I have met a 24 year old who speaks five languages. These are completely normal people, leading normal lives- they are not translators, and they speak these languages because this is their way of life. Just this weekend in Panama, I went out to dinner with two girls from Switzerland. They both speak four languages. I feel that since I am American, I have been missing out on this crucial element my entire life, and now kicking myself for not catching on like the rest of them. Sure, we have languages in high school- but do we really learn them? When I compare my Spanish classes in high school to how I am actually learning Spanish right now- well, they were an absolute joke, uninspiring, and all about memorization rather than conversation.

That is why I am so proud to FINALLY be learning another language- I am so sick of being surrounded by so many people in my life that speak a whole bunch of languages fluently, while I speak only English. What kind of superiority do we hold in the US? Sure, English is the most common language spoken in the world, so we are lucky- but seriously? There is something SERIOUSLY lacking in the United States, and that is the lack of language learning.

I have been studying very hard this past month, and I am very proud to be able to converse and understand what others are saying (that is, if they speak slowly). I spent almost the entire weekend in Panama speaking Spanish. It is so amazing for me to be suddenly thinking in Spanish- for someone to ask me a question, and for me to answer it in my head in SPANISH! For me to look outside the window and just naturally think ‘ventana,’ and then realize that I just said the word ‘window’ in Spanish in my head. It makes me very, very happy.

Now let’s see if I can hold onto it.

Much love,

Brittany


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