Learning a new language

 

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.                                     -Nelson Mandela

 

Education is a powerful tool to have. The benefits of acquiring knowledge are immense. When I say education, I do not only mean attending school or earning a college degree. Education is the capability to learn life experiences. This powerful weapon of education means also knowing other people’s cultures and languages. The process of learning other languages in specific, opens new levels of knowledge and appreciation towards others.  In today’s society, where everything is globalized, it proves to be advantageous. Medically, speaking more than one language has its own benefits for cognitive skills and to prevent some mental disorders. Culturally, it opens your world to new experiences.  Learning a new language does not mean abandoning yours. Mostly for those of us that have moved to a foreign land, it means proving yourself, it means embracing, it means caring for others enough to get to know them. This is also true about traveling. I have always appreciated when tourists would make the effort to speak to me in Spanish while they were touring the cobble stone streets of my Old San Juan. It is the same expression I have seen in French areas of Canada when I have tried to speak their language.

Growing up in Puerto Rico I had the privilege to learn both Spanish and English because of the island’s political relations with USA. This does not mean that I was completely bilingual nor that I felt comfortable speaking English. My parents made an effort to teach me and my brother the importance of learning other languages. Not only English but possibly other languages. I had the opportunity to travel to the mainland several times during my youth and practice the immersion into the different culture and language. After moving to Florida, everyone wanted me to either teach them Spanish or for me to just speak Spanish to them because it was comfortable. I wanted to practice English, I wanted to meet people from Thailand, from Japan, from China, from Poland.  I signed up for a community college ESOL program. When I did, I learned that I did not know it all and neither did the teacher. I was reminded that we learn till the day we die. Then, why be afraid of learning something new? I learned to communicate with people from other countries with their broken English as they tried hard to start new lives. I learned their stories, their cultures, their food. I fell in love with the opportunities given to me. I grew as an individual.

 

I admit that even though I polished my English knowledge, so much that I married someone born and raised in the US that did not speak Spanish, I have not continued my pursuit of other languages as much as I would like to. That is a goal I have and that I have reestablished in my calendar to pursue in the near future (with specific dates and all- it will happen!).  In the meantime, as a mother, I decided to teach my kids. I want them to enjoy both sets of families without translators. My husband has been learning Spanish too. When we are around Spanish speakers, they call him “dangerous” because he might look like he doesn’t understand while they are talking about how great Carlos Correa performed, and all of the sudden he spurts the stats with hitting averages and details of hits in Spanish.  I must stop to add, I LOVE baseball.

 

There are so many tools to learn a new language. The advantage of the melting pot that is our society, is a great advantage. To me, some of the best ways have been reading, TV and apps. I am a FRIENDS fan (seems as I am giving away my age here). I ‘ve seen those episodes a hundred times. I think I can write the script by now off the top of my head. I watched them in Spanish, then in English with subtitles, then in English only. Simple things that you enjoy and know can open a new world of opportunities. Maybe a movie you like and you can quote by heart you could try to watch it in another language.

With my girls I started with colors, letters, and shapes. I taught them in both languages. There are so many books and resources at your local library that you could use. You do not need to master the other language. Just be willing to dive in.  We have good friends from France.  Their oldest is good friends with my oldest. It was amazing to see them speak French and Spanish back and forth to each other. Years after knowing each other, they still ask for words in the other language and show interest in knowing more. If you have kids or are around kids, take the time to explore even a few words. The history and the culture of that place is a good place to start.  Keep in mind that we are all educators, and we are capable of learning until our last breath.

 

Let’s open our minds to new opportunities and ideas.

 

Don’t forget to get your copy of B is for Bilingual. I wrote this book with the best intention of helping you start that journey of learning a new language.

 

 

 

Let’s open our minds to new opportunities and ideas.

 

 

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