Friday, October 17, 2008

Language Envy

Many Mexican people we meet here have studied English in preparatoria (high school) or college, our Escuela Mexicana European classmates are studying Spanigh as their third or fourth language, and Noah's and Dana's classmates are often bi- or tri-lingual as well.

We have Swiss friends, who lived three years in Costa Rica before coming to Guanajuato, that speak German at home, Spanish everywhere, and English as well.  I am envious of six-year-old Florian and ten-year-old Maura's facility in three languages.  And their parents are not just conversational in several languages, but operate professionally in them as well. Wow.

While I wish I had gotten started as a kid, or gone abroad in college, I didn't.  Instead, I am struggling post forty to learn Spanish.  When I start feeling depressed thinking about Dana's friend Danae who is bilingual in Spanish and English and strong in German, or Noah's classmate Eyal, who is bilingual in Spanish and Hebrew and coming on well in English, I try and remember there are folks in my Spanish classes who are in their sixties.  Then I get out my books, study verb conjugations, and feel very thankful that I get this time to learn as much as I can.  Working to learn another language is difficult, but amazing and fascinating as well.  I hope with time and study I'll get there.  Maybe by fifty I'll know something of what Florian knows at six.

Actually, he just turned seven.  We hiked up one of the mountains encircling Guanajuato with his family, and another who have four kids, to celebrate his birthday/cumpleanos/geburtstag. There was a fire for cooking hot dogs and banana boats (chocolate tucked into a banana and heated in not-too-hot coals), birthday cake and singing in several languages, and much running around of children.  Florian speaks to me in Spanish, his sister addresses me in English, and I toss a few German words back to them when some pop into my head leftover from language in classes in college almost 25 years ago.

With our neighbors or people that we see traversing the callejones, at least I know enough Spanish now to be friendly.  I can understand the woman who suggested I not let Noah and Dana slide down the handrail in a steep callejon, greet the shopkeepers we pass each morning
 taking Noah and Dana to school, and even gave the right info when I was asked for directions from some out-of-town Mexicans.  I have to admit it was a shock that they believed I would understand their question and know the info they needed.  I guess there's hope after all.


SirenMoon said...

I totally understand the language envy there, Laural. When I get that way, I remember that I know the language of music as my second language (and sometimes my first!), and there are lots of people who envy me that! And just look at what you are offering your kids! A priceless gift.

The hiking looks absolutely amazing and I have got to try those banana boats out! Yummmm.....

Llew said...

Hi there, Vonnie says that she is looking forward to speaking with you in Spanish when you get back. Me, I would just have to listen and wonder. Language has always been really difficult for me. I really admire what all four of you are doing. And I am with the woman who warned toward caution on the stair rail speedway: they look pretty hard to bounce on. I filled out my ballot choices yesterday in prep for taking it in in November. I love the color in all the pictures, and the two good looking kids. That would be you two, Noah and Dana. Llew

Milo's said...

Dear Laural,

My name is Lori and I live in Lopez Island Washington. My friend Heidi came across your blog and sent me a link.
My husband, myself and my son Milo(8) will be heading to Guanajuato in November and Milo will be attending Yeccan. We are hoping to stay at least five years and have been working on making it a reality over the last 6 months-

I cannot express fully in words what an inspiration you and your family are!! Thank you!

I look forward to meeting you all!

wildelg said...

Way to go on your language efforts. You probably remember that kids brains are designed to sponge up that language, while brains as old as ours are just getting spongey!

I'm surprised at how much spanish I know, even though I've never been anywhere where I could really use it.

Have you dreamt in spanish yet? I'm told by other travelers that dreaming exclusively in the new language is the true sign that you've begun to "own" the language.

Hang in there, and sweet dreams!

Laural Ringler said...

Thanks for your thoughts and encouragement, everyone. I haven't dreamed in Spanish yet, but I look forward to the day. And Lori - looking forward to meeting you when you arrive. How exciting you can live here for a good chunk of time!

kerry said...

Hi guys, it's kerry. just think if noah slipped.that would really hurt!!
i've noticed in your pictures that dana looks like she has grown quite a bit, i guess it's been as long as it feels. keep e-mailing me and i'll keep e-mailing you.(i'll keep e-mailing you no matter what) can't wait to here from you again.
love you