“To have another language is to possess a second soul.” –Charlemagne
The European Emperor Charlemagne said that at a time when the opportunity to learn a foreign language—or to learn to read or write one’s own—was rare. These days, it’s reported that 53% of Europeans can speak a foreign language. Unfortunately, only 18% of Americans speak a language other than English. We recently asked Red Roomers to blog about their own experiences learning a foreign language.
We wanted to know who immigrated to a country where they had to learn the language fast in order to make it; who were the students in the back of French class who dreaded being called on, and whose ease at learning languages had them dreaming of living abroad. A few posts stood out:
- Talking with the women of a remote Greek mountain village, the language author Naseem Rakha seems to learn is the slow, hard-working but idyllic life far from "civilization." See if you can resist "Learning Greek from the Ladies."
- American author Harrison Solow did her doctoral work at the University of Wales. "Dysgu Cymraeg: Learning Welsh," a passage from her dissertation about learning Welsh, shows movingly that learning a language is more about connecting with another culture than speaking with textbook perfection.
- There were several wonderful tales of learning languages from parents who immigrated to English-speaking countries. In "Mama's Accent," member S. Buttaci tells a family saga in which Sicilian is almost like another character.
These bloggers will receive books by Red Room authors:
Eve Kushner's Crazy for Kanji: A Student's Guide to the Wonderful World of Japanese Characters provides the context sorely missing from most classes and books about kanji, one of the Japanese language's writing systems. Jam-packed with exhibits, the book supplies background information, explores fun themes, and challenges readers with games.
Count Me In!: A Parade of Mexican Folk Art Numbers in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill uses the figurative ceramics of Mexican ceramists Guillermina, Josefina, Irene and Concepcion Aguilar to teach children their numbers. Figures representing an annual parade in the State of Oaxaca march across the pages.
You can see all of the entries for this blog challenge here. I hope you'll read them all and let the bloggers know in the comments what you liked about their stories. All of Red Room's past blog topics are here. Thanks as always for blogging!
–Huntington W. Sharp, Senior Editor, Red Room