Foreign affair

Bonjour! Ciao Bella! Guten tag! Buenos dias!

All foreign phrases, but all phrases you probably recognize, right? What about hasta la vista or mazel tov or joie de vivre? Fairly common, but also foreign. Who says you only speak English? Ever wished you had more than just the odd phrase in a language other than English? Have you ever thought about learning a foreign language? Or what about sprucing up your high school French or Spanish? When you travel do you try to learn a little of the local lingo?

One summer my son and I were in Amsterdam for a few days and I had very carefully chosen what I thought was an Italian restaurant for dinner one evening. He was eleven or twelve at the time and though not in the least a fussy eater, Italian always seems a safe bet. Turns out it was a Spanish tapas resto and the menu was in Dutch and Spanish. Neither language my strong suit. And of course the waiters spoke only Spanish and/or Dutch. The waiters, however, were very kind and entertaining. A few of them came over to our table and proceeded to act out the entire menu. Pushing up a nose and snorting for pork, pointing to ribs for ribs, flapping elbows for wings, and on and on. It was kind, generous and hilarious. We really enjoyed our meal, but I did come away wishing I spoke another language. And after this trip, in particular Spanish or Dutch.

What was that? You think you’re too old? Nope. Current research shows that you can teach an old middle-aged dog new tricks. And the benefits of learning a foreign language are enormous – builds confidence, improves memory and retention, increases brain power, enriches travel experiences and enhances cultural experiences. Just think of the food, wine, movies, poetry, art… Oh, my! Now is not the time of life to become complacent. Just the sheer challenge of learning something new can be amazing, re-energizing.

If the thought of heading back to the classroom is not your idea of a good time, never fear there are lots of online tools at your disposal. Taking the learning in bite sized chunks, like ten minutes a day, can be more effective than long, intense weekly sessions. Choose a method that will be fun for you and enjoy the simple pleasure of learning something new.

So what do you think? What foreign language is on your horizon? Tell us about your dalliances in foreign affairs.

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  • Although I have a French last name, married name, my French is weak to say the least and I find it a difficult language to learn. I really wish I spoke the language since it is the second official language of our country. That being said German and Spanish have always interest me and I think I just might work on one of these languages first, Spanish, then perhaps I will have the confidence to tackle my French again. Thank you for making this the topic of discussion, has made me rethink my aspirations.

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