When you travel around Europe it is normal to bump into people who speak a second language, some speak a third and some even a fourth. I’ve always been in awe of other people speaking different languages. My next door neighbor, when I lived in the Netherlands, spoke fluent Dutch, German, English and Polish. She managed to effortlessly switch from one language to another. That is talent!
People often ask me how many languages I speak. My normal answer is: English (badly), Italian (well, that’s my native language), French (I used to speak it better than English, not anymore, but I can read it well), German (very badly), Dutch (only because Dutch TV shows are in English with Dutch subtitles) and Spanish (I understand it, but I don’t speak it. All Italians would say that, the language is practically an Italian dialect).
Here are my reasons for knowing these languages, though I’m not pretending to be multilingual…
My journey in learning languages began in middle school where I learned French and Latin. Why we were learning Latin back in those days is was really beyond me. I soon learned in the years to come that Latin would help me understand and learn other languages, even the non-Latin ones like German and English. Before I completed middle school, I had to make a decision on what I wanted to do in life. Every kid in Europe has to make that decision at an early stage because high schools in Europe are selected according to one’s learning tendency and goals in life.
My wish at the time was to learn different languages because I wanted to travel and someday live in the US (all the films on TV portrayed America as the land of wealth and beautiful people). I am proud to say that the decision I made when I was thirteen paid off a great deal. I am still traveling and I live in the US, although I learned a long time ago that there are only a few wealthy people, and not everybody is beautiful. Anyway, I digress. In the end, I chose to enter a high school focused on language and business. For five years I learned French, German and English along with other classes focused on these languages and economics. Every language had 3 separate classes: one for grammar and composition, one for geography, and one for history which were taught in each language, making it hard to understand at times. We had 14 mandatory classes a week which were distributed throughout a six hour day in school, including Saturdays (no electives like they have in American high schools).
Needless to say, after these grueling five years of not having a life, I graduated knowing four languages. My favorite one was … French, and my least favorite was… German. But I knew that if I wanted to travel I needed to improve my proficiency in English. I had to converse and get immersed in an English culture. So, I convinced my parents to let me go to England as an “au pair” for three months, and the rest is history! (More in another blog…)
My story doesn’t end here and my language learning experience is in constant evolvement. As I live and work in the US and speak only English 24/7, my native language is taking a beating. At times when I speak with my friends and family back home, I forget words and have a hard time explaining things; people even tell me I speak Italian with an American accent. Go figure!
I recommend everyone to learn another language. It’s not only very useful for traveling in foreign countries, but it also helps you in business and getting ahead in life. My efforts have paid off and if I could, I would learn more languages. But perhaps I should work on the ones I already know…
|Welcome||Séyiz les beinv’nu(e)(s)!|
|Hello||Salut / Bouônjour|
|How are you?
I’m fine, thanks. And you?
|Coumme est qu’ous êtes? (frm/pl)
Coumme est qu’ tu’es? (inf) Comment va? (vinf)
|Jé sis d’charme, mèrcie, et té/vos?|
|What’s your name?
My name is …
|Tch’est qu’est vot’ nom? (frm) Tch’est qu’est tan nom? (inf)|
|Man nom est … / Jé sis … / Jé m’appelle …|
|Good morning||Bouônjour (à matîn)|
|Good night||Bouonne niet|
|Goodbye||À bétôt, À bi, À la préchaine, À tantôt|
|Good luck||Bouonne cache / dés crouaîsis (fingers crossed)|
|Cheers/Good health!||Bouonne santé!|