Monday, January 27, 2014

Can a Burro Become Bi-Lingual?

The idea of speaking other languages has intrigued me since childhood. I remember really enjoying the story of the Tower of Babel. I thought it was pretty interesting to think that at one time everyone may have spoken the same language. Of course, I "knew" that they must have all been speaking English up to that point.

That innocent childhood naivety has not translated into my own personal bias against learning another language; something I cannot say for many monolingual persons living in the United States, especially those who speak only English.

Personally, I find it ironic that people in a country which has long boasted of its diversity and touting itself as the great "melting pot" would not only be resistant to multilingual integration into its society, but in many cases are outright hostile towards the thought of it.

I could write at length about my theories as to why this attitude persists or give reasons why I believe it is impractical, illogical, and a contributing factor to our consistent decline in both education and economics on the global scene. However, this blog is generally about my Faith and interpersonal experiences, so that's what I really intend to write about.

Growing up in Southeastern Louisiana, I was exposed to a lot of cultural integration. I lived in the New Orleans Metropolitan area for Pete's sake. On top of that, it was not unusual for me to hear maternal relatives carrying on conversations in a complete mixture of French and English, switching back and forth between languages mid-sentence.

Later, I worked for a company that employed a large percentage of Hispanic and Vietnamese workers. I enjoyed interacting with many of them and took an active interest in learning a few words here and there. Unfortunately, most of what I learned, I am unable to put to use. You see, I really try not to use that type of language (foul) anymore.  :-)

Now living in North Texas, I belong to a rather large and very diverse Parish. Our Parish got its start as a mission for Spanish-speaking ranch hands, farmers, and their families. These days, we have a majority of Parishioners who speak only English, but we have retained a large Hispanic population as well.

I believe that I have been as or more supportive of the efforts to integrate cultural diversity in the Parish as anyone, and I have several bi-lingual friends. Our Parish offers "English as a Second Language" classes, and I have pestered my Pastor on several occasions to consider "Spanish as a Second Language" classes as well.

I first considered the Rosetta Stone course while in Louisiana, but it was more than $600. I have seriously considered it for the last 4 years, but it has remained quite expensive. I nearly purchased it this Christmas as there was a "bargain" for all 5 Levels for $298, but that's still a heavy price tag for us. As you can see though, I have been "on the fence" so to speak for quite some time.

Alas, I have been knocked off of that fence, and will finally be learning to speak Spanish. I "bit the bullet" and purchased all 5 Levels of the Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin-America) course. It's a steep price tag for my family at $314 plus tax, but anyone who really knows me knows that when I am determined to do something, I pretty much get it done - plus my wife said I could.

Although it's offered in several formats, I chose the CD-ROM version for reasons that are not important to this post. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my lessons which are scheduled for delivery by tomorrow's end.

Meanwhile, after exhausting amounts of research, I have determined that RS alone is not the way for me to go. I will attack this endeavor on various fronts, and I have already begun.

I found a truly free (even ad-free) app for my Kindle called "Duolingo" which I absolutely love. I've earned about 500 "coins" which I admit I do not know much about, but 99 of those coins earned allowed me to get another app for my Kindle at no cost to me - Basic Spanish for Dummies. Additionally, I have decided to occasionally attend Mass in Spanish, listen to some Spanish radio, and have asked some friends who speak Spanish to begin conversing with me only in Spanish.

So what did it? What literally knocked me off the fence and - as my wife says - "created a monster?"

I recently went on a job interview. I am not going to reveal the name of the prospective employer (and please don't ask) for various reasons. However, I will say that this employment would be ideal for me and for my family. The problem? Being bi-lingual (meaning English and Spanish) is a "very strong" desired ability of the prospective employee.

While I truly believe that my passion to contribute to their efforts, coupled with my personal abilities would be extremely favorable for them as well, I expect that this will turn out to be a "deal-breaker" and exclude me from gaining employment with this employer.

Although I see the irony in my long-standing belief of linguistic integration, I'm not upset with anyone except myself. I feel my procrastination in learning to speak Spanish may have hurt my family in some way.

But I am determined not to find myself in this situation again. I'll try to blog from time to time about my progress and about what I think of the various learning techniques I will be using.


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