Learning the Language

Jan 17th, 2007, 06:58 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
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I am fairly fluent in the spanish language which has helped me immensely when traveling to other countries.

With my upcoming trip in the Fall of 2007 to France, I have taken the Fall French I classes at adult night classes and will be doing the next level in the Spring.

I listen to tapes, records, music and whatever in languages of the places I plan to visit. It is much more enjoyable and other countries do appreciate if we try to speak a little in their native tongue.

eurogals is offline  
Jan 17th, 2007, 07:54 PM
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A couple of years ago I resolved to take up the thread of my education in the French language, abandoned since my college years. There was an Alliance Francaise office convenient, right around the corner from my business. If you're interested in French, take a look at the courses and experiences offered at the Alliance...if you're in a major American metropolitan area, chances are there's one not too far away.

By now, I may not be fluent, but I'm competent in French. I subscribe to 'L'Express' and read Le Figaro online daily. I also subscribe to the 'Champs d'Elysees' series of language books/CDs. Well worth the expense.

I listen to internet radio in French all day at work, much to the irritation of my colleagues. Acclimates one's ear, you know? I recommend Swiss radio...www.rsr.ch. They speak more slowly than does French radio, and are more easily understood that French or Quebec radio.
RedStater is offline  
Jan 17th, 2007, 07:56 PM
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Sorry, I neglected to mention that the Alliance often offers a travel course in the spring, focusing on those phrases and vocabulary useful to the travelling tourist.
RedStater is offline  
Jan 17th, 2007, 09:44 PM
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Depends on how you define "Learning the Language."

We learn the basic polite things whenever we travel--Please; thank you; and such. And some practical terms--WC; numbers; how much?; too much; what watch?; 10 watch; etc.

But to really "learn" every language of every country we visit would not only be impossible, but a real waste of time, energy, and resources. To put a lot of time and effort into really learning Bulgarian for a 10-day visit if you are unlikely ever to use it again is just a waste.

The school systems of the US Dept. of Defense and several states spent a lot of money teaching me Spanish for 3 years and German for 5 years. Then I never used either for over 30 years.

Finally what I could remember of the German helped some on 3 vactions totalling about 20 days--but certainly not enough to justify the cost.

There really needs to be a reason to teach a language other than "it's a really nice thing to do and it might possibly come in handy some day, though it's not very likely." Otherwise it's money and time down the drain. I would have been a lot better off with more math, science, economics, and philosophy courses.

There is probably some cultural justification for teaching Spanish in areas along the Mexican border--though no overwhelming economic/social benefit even there.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 08:23 AM
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>>There really needs to be a reason to teach a language other than "it's a really nice thing to do and it might possibly come in handy some day, though it's not very likely." Otherwise it's money and time down the drain. I would have been a lot better off with more math, science, economics, and philosophy courses<<

Learning a language, drawing with pastels and reading murder mysteries do not have very good financial payoffs. They are things that I do for enjoyment and satisfaction. My formal studies were in engineering and finance; perhaps,I have been spending the rest of my life trying to catch up in the liberal arts.

To each his/her own.

Regards, Gary
Gary_Mc is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 08:59 AM
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Drawing and reading murder mysteries have continued and lifelong payoffs that are not necessarily financial. Learning a language that you never use doesn't--at least it hasn't for me.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 09:02 AM
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In fact, I wish some of my schools had given more time to art and music instead of foreign languages. Now if I had been born in Germany, or Belgium, or Austria, or the Netherlands, it would be probably be a different story.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 09:02 AM
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Always carry a phrase book with you if you don't speak the local language. At the very least, you can point to the translated phrase and the native can point to the answer. I've used this technique for years, and it works great.
Robespierre is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 09:16 AM
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I have to speak a few languages because of my job and also it's kind of necessary in Belgium - but when I go somewhere I don't speak the language - I always learn the basics during the flight - or often I buy a cd with basic stuff on it for the car during my holiday. I had great fun trying to learn a bit of croatian this summer.

Its good to learn a few words of many languages - you don't have to be perfect.

I don't know why peole don't make an effort to learn Please, Thanks (or in my case glass of red wine). It takes about 10 mins.
Jan 18th, 2007, 09:38 AM
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I really really make an effort, but I have come to the conclusion that my brain is deficient in that area. My husband had one year of German in 1973-74 and can "get by" in German in Germany. I had two years of high school Spanish, one year of college Spanish and have listened to countless CDs, and my Spanish is still terrible. I am very "not gifted" at languages.
missypie is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 09:52 AM
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Learning Spanish has been the framework for my travels for the last 10 years or so. I am retired and often travel solo and those local language schools you see advertised fit me well. I am more interested in the people, daily life and culture than the "sights", so staying with a local family for 2-3 weeks is ideal for my interests. Moveover, as a solo traveler I have 15-20 "instant" friends the minute I walk into class. You quickly benefit from their experience on how and where to do things. They are a fascinating group: in my last class in May in San Sebastian there were 10 people in the class representing 9 different countries.

I have studied in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Spain. Just pick the country and there will be a school there. Down the street from my school in Antigua, Guatemala was a school teaching French.

As a solo traveler, it is a bit reassuring to know that there is someone in country [the school and your host family]who feels a bit of responsibility for helping you out should you run into trouble. I haven't had to call on them but I know I could.

One final thought: I often schedule my schools to coincide with local events when lodging is either not available or exhorbitantly priced. The school will always find you a family or a room at the normal rates. This worked wonderfully when I wanted to be in Sevilla during Semana Santa. Without the school it would never have come together.

One example what can happen: One night last May in San Sebastian I ended up in a Spanish jazz club with three fellow students: A doctor from Amsterdam, a pharmacist from Berlin, and a store clerk from Switzerland. We were listening to a French group singing American blues in English. It doesn't get much better than that. [My contribution was to explain that the song "The eagle flies on Friday" was about getting paid at the end of the week and not about an airline.

Try it you'll like it!
weber6560 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 10:08 AM
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I have spent about 5 years trying to learn Italian. While far from fluent, I am reasonably proficient at this point. I too try to keep up by reading on-line Italian newspapers, etc. I too have trouble with becoming nervous, which makes me tongue-tied but I struggle along and continue to work at it.
Last year my husband and I went to Paris and I decided to try to revive my high school french. I took one term of an adult class at our community college. I learned enough to understand bill-boards (I think bill-boards to give one a certain bizarre sense of the culture) and speak in a very basic way. However, whenever anyone would respond in french I found myself becoming so nervous I would frequently respond in Italian. This generally was not well-received.
We are going to Vienna for a week at the end of February. I have never spoken any German. I have purchased a small phrase book and I will try to learn a few things beyond "please" and "thank you" because I think it's an important courtesy. We'll see if I can manage to keep the Italian from slipping out.
MarieC is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 12:48 PM
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I always try but it doesn't come easily. I've had highschool French and quite a few conversational classes and have watched many many French films but I'm far from fluent. I've been to Paris three times without any problems but of course so many French people speak English very well. I know the tiniest bit of Spanish (but so far the only place to try it out has been LA and San Diego!) and now I'm listening to CDs, trying to memorize my phrasebook and working my way through Italian for Dummies because we're off to Rome in less than 4 weeks.

I have infinite admiration and envy for Europeans (and others) who speak multiple languages. Canada is supposedly bilingual (English/French) but my school didn't even offer French until grade 8--a bit late and not the best age for trying to learn a new language.
outwest is offline  
Jan 18th, 2007, 01:04 PM
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I don't have a natural knack for learning languages, but I enjoy it. I read French and Italian for my research and have learned how to speak French pretty well--I was in Paris last May and spoke nothing but French to anyone, which was fun. (Men I encountered told me I do well with the accent, but they may have been hitting on me. ;-) ) My spoken Italian is good enough to carry on some conversations and get around. My vocab in both is skewed towards art (b/c of my work) so food words stymie me sometimes. ;-) My German is..well, ok, and that's being generous.

I like to learn a little of the language when visiting someplace new if for no other reason to get into the spirit of the thing. I'm going to Holland in May for the first time and bought the In Flight Dutch cd even though I know everyone there speaks English. It's a nice gesture, I think, to say a little in the local language. It shows interest in the culture.
DejaVu is offline  
Jan 31st, 2007, 05:44 PM
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MarieC: LOL - while in Paris I got stuck in a line at Versailles with a bunch of Italians - the image of an American Tourist attempting French and accidentally blurting something in Italian is definitely a humourous image -thanks.

As to the comments on the percieved worthlessness of learning a language one will never use, I must take exception. I found the very modest investment I made in time, energy, and money to learn about 100 French words and some simple syntax rules well worth the effort. I am not now, nor will I ever be, conversant in any foreign language and I didn't invest that energy for the altruistic benefit of learning a language, as if the joy of learning a language is a hobby for me, because it isn't. But considering the large investment in time, energy, and money I made to spend a week in France with my family, it was my travelling experience in France that was greatly enhanced by the small amount of language I did learn, and I feel I recieved a return on that investment. If you feel otherwise, then I respect your opinion, but I respectfully submit I had a better time in Paris than similar American travelers who made no effort to learn any French at all.
docdan is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 06:25 AM
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docdan--you didn't learn the language. You learned a few words and phrases in the language at a relatively small cost in time and money. Not the same thing at all as spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of student and teacher time actually trying to learn the language with no expectation that the students will ever have reason to use that particular language to any significant degree.

What you did is something every considerate traveler should do.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 07:02 AM
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Learning a new language has a payoff in many intangible ways. I think the most important is that it opens your mind. Gets you to think in patterns that are not the same as the ones prescribed by your native language. Gives you a different perspective on your own language. These benefits persist even if you never "use" the new language.

But at least for me, learning a language in school has enabled me to read literature I would never have read, listen to music I never would have heard, read and listen to radio and news reports very different from the ones at home, and yes, travel more easily in a country I learned to love through the study of its language. These are the more practical benefits.

Nikki is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 08:45 AM
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But is it worth the time and expense to teach everyone a random language that they might or might not ever use? And how many people in the USA would be able to take a language in school and actually use it in practice enough to be able to really read and understand the literature in that language. Not many compared to the overall time, money, and effort involved.

Yes, a very few people might find a use for some language other than English, but which one for each individual? (it would help if we had a crystal ball and could predict which language each child would find useful)--heck, my years of German in high school and college helped on our 2-week trip to Bavaria 5 years ago and our 3 days in Berlin this year. But I don't really think that justified the cost in time and money.

As to vague, unmeasureable, and debatable benefits like opening one's mind--I think that there are other ways that would accomplish the same goal and give more effectively--we don't spend enough time on art and music, for example. And that sort of knowledge can be used lifelong by just about everybody.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 09:43 AM
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When I went to school, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, art, music, and language were included in every student's career. The music I learned in public school is the skill I use the most to this day.

I would argue that learning a second language functions in much the same way as learning algebra. It allows you to think in different ways than the thought patterns you use before you learn them.

And while I use the French I learned in school far more than I use algebra (which is, by the way, never), I would not argue that one was more important than the other in building my education.
Nikki is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 09:51 AM
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>he thought patterns
I ledared in this forum, that it's impossible to translate "Das Wasser siedet" into English without changing its meaning. You need to describe the meaning of the word "sieden" using several other words. ;-)
logos999 is offline  

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