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Six Languages in Six Months

In preparation for Baby G, Mr. G and I have embarked upon a "Six Languages in Six Months" crash course for ourselves. We want our child to learn multiple languages at a tender age, when the brain is most spongy and absorbent to the nuances of language, so we thought we would brush up on our Romances and Germanics. It may be turn out to be more useful for our kid to learn Chinese, but hey, we need to start somewhere. And besides, we fantasize about moving to Europe one day...

Learning foreign languages is also a great way to excite my own brain about language in general. To hear familiar ideas expressed differently, to sample exotic flavors of thought, to become acutely aware of tone, phonetic sound, and layers of meaning--all these things enrich my use of English. I know a little bit of a few languages, but I am only fluent in English. I suppose I could still become fluent in something else (my brain feeling not entirely crusty and dried up at 27), but even if I don't, it's fun and sexy and stimulating to learn to comprehend and converse in different ways. And I expect it to benefit my WIP, my poor neglected WIP that has lain fallow throughout my first trimester of pregnancy.

At the start of my second trimester, the hormonal exhaustion and nausea have subsided, and it's time to get down to business again!

Our language crash course schedule is:

July: Spanish
August: French
September: Italian
October: German
November: Portuguese
December: Dutch

Because we already know a bit of Spanish (me more than him), we're starting easy with a refresher course. Besides, this month starts out with Frida Kahlo's birthday (yesterday). We've already watched a couple of movies in Spanish (Amores Perros, which I saw for the first time 10 years ago in a Mexican theater, and a film adaptation of Carmen starring Paz Vega). We have Spanish pop songs to sing and Pablo Neruda love poetry to recite. We also have a couple of Spanish for Gringos instructional books. Additionally, we are friends with some real live Mexicans--my friend Esperanza's cousins--on Facebook. I suppose we could use them to practice, but unfortunately they tend to use an incomprehensible form of Spanglish text speak which probably has its own value but might as well be Japanese to me. Oh well.

Next month will be a refresher for Mr. G, who was once near fluent in French and even "passed" while sneaking away from the class on a school trip to Paris, and challenging but not intimidating for me. I am slightly familiar with sentence structure and basic words. I'm sure we'll watch Amelie, which Mr. G has not even seen (can you believe it?), and we'll listen to some French learning CDs I nabbed from my brother after he took a high school class. I will familiarize myself with spelling by reading a French Vogue that I stole from a hotel waiting room on a recent trip. Also, I noticed that the local Barnes and Noble sells French and other European magazines if I need more material.

September always brings back memories of my time in Rome, so it will be a good time to refresh my Italian. Mr. G doesn't know much Italian, but he will be motivated to learn so he can keep up with the cycling tours and news that are sometimes only accessible in Italian. I expect we'll have no trouble finding good films to watch, and I have a friendly set of CD ROMs from ca. 1990 that are still good for learning the basics.

October, of course, is the month of Oktoberfest in Germany. Sadly, I will be sampling no beer this year! But I look forward to playing games on the German CD ROM set that Mr. G found at a used bookstore and also singing a lot of Rammstein songs at full force while we drive around in the car. We already do it, but soon we'll know what ingeniously obscene things we are wailing out the window! Sometimes Mr. G hums Rammstein lyrics at work, and his coworker who used to live in Germany flinches or gives him a really weird look and sputters, "WHAT did you say?" Mr. G only shrugs, because he has no idea. But I can't wait to find out. Haha.

Neither of us has any connection to Brazil, Portugal, or the Portuguese language, but I think it sounds sexy, and I would like to get a handle on the official languages of all the nations in my hemisphere. That would give me a sense of completion. I can see us watching beachy films and listening to bossa nova music. Maybe I could even learn some very pregnant samba moves.

Dutch will also be a stretch for us, but I think it sounds lovely, and we have wanted to visit (or even escape to) the Netherlands for a long time. Bikes, tulips, health, wealth, smart children, and hash cookies! Who could argue?

If we run out of language learning tools, we are confident we will find educational resources at the library, online, or as a last resort, at the bookstore shelf with all the shiny new Rosetta Stone boxes.

So friends, wish us luck. What languages do you speak, besides English? And do you think it affects the way you express yourself?


  1. Holy crap! I'm in absolute awe that you're going to do that. I don't speak any other languages unless you count the three years of American Sign Language I took in college. I can't remember any of it now, though, sadly. My husband speaks Honduran Spanish, which is helpful!

    I wish you the best of luck! Especially about moving to Europe. That would be amazing! I've been there, but not sure I'd want to live there unless it was Italy. :)

    I've never seen Amelie, either. I've GOT to!

  2. Wow you're ambitious!

    Listen to some Edith Piaff for french (or is it Edith Piaf?), she sings slow and you can understand the words better that way. I can also recommend french thrillers if you like that kind of film, look for stuff with Jean Reno or Vincent Cassel, they are great actors.

    Try Cervantes for Spanish ; ) - or Isabella Allende, she does YA books, too, which could help. Also, she's a great writer.

    If you want some help with the german feel free to ask me ; ) - there's some great fairytaley-fantasy novels in German if you're interested.

    Good luck with the project!


    ps so how are you going to impart this knowledge on baby g?

    pps. I speak German, English (duh), Spanish, French, a little Italian, some Hungarian and a tiny leftover of Latin

  3. I speakee de Engrish, de Espanish, and de Pot-tu-geeze.

    I would love to visit Macao, where I can learn Portuguese with a real Chinese accent. I'm serious; I really want to go.

  4. Michelle: Ooh, ASL is a good one to learn too. There are lots of jobs for translators and teachers. And babies can learn it long before they can talk. Pretty nifty. Where have you been in Europe? I could live in the Italian countryside for sure, but the cities would drive me insane. It's kind of post-apocalyptic and never recovered after WWII. We're looking at Netherlands, Germany, Austria... In fact, Mr. G's dad has an Austrian christening certificate since he was born in a camp there, so that might get us in legally. Heh...

    Tessa: Thanks for all the suggestions! I'm so impressed with all the languages you speak. Have you lived/studied in places that speak all those languages? We are planning to homeschool Baby G. We'll get real lessons, but we'd like to be a little proficient ourselves before we teach. Michigan schools are pretty terrible. I know from having worked in them and started grad school in school psych here (and from the government stats). Also, proper homeschooling takes only a fraction of the time that kids spend in traditional school, and if done correctly, they learn faster, develop better socially, and have far higher IQs--even score better on standardized tests than kids who go through traditional schools. It's a no brainer for us. Luckily, we have flexible jobs, so we'll be able to pull it off. And there are tons of kids' activities, sports teams, and classes in our township, so our kid can make friends.

    Marie: That is awesome. I want to go with you. :D

  5. I went all over Europe, but mostly Germany. I loved Italy the most. I went to Germany, France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Switzerland. I wish I could have made it to England and Scotland and Norway, but those will have to be another trip, I suppose. Who knows when that will happen, hah.

  6. Wow!!!!! I speak English. I've always wanted to speak other languages. I've taken French, Spanish and I've tried to learn a little Japanese. I only speak English though. Good luck. Can't wait to learn how it goes!!! =D

  7. I live in Austria now, went to school/university in England, to Spain almost every summer as far back as I can remember, spent a summer in Paris at the Sorbonne learning french (I can definately recommend that one, not expensive, cool student housing and great feel for the language), my dad is hungarian and half my job takes place in Hungary.

    I'm only completely fluent in German, English and Spanish, though. My French is ok but not great...I can read a book or a newspaper but speaking has its issues (also french people speak really, really fast).

    Latin I learned at school (now there's a useful wouldnt think so, but it gives a GREAT base for Spanish, French and Italian, and also helps with the logical thinking because it's a very structured language) (you should look into latin if you're homeschooling). Italian sort of came with the latin and Spanish and my best friend at school, who's from Sicily.

    If you want some tips as to foreign language kids' books, let me know, I have lots of nieces/nephews/godchildren so I know a couple. I could probably come up with a couple of kiddy songs, too. Those are always a great help. They would probably be great help for YOU, too, not just Baby G. I'm a big fan of the language-learning theory that approaches the whole thing the same way a little kid would...a much more organic way of learning (also, I'm not a fan of grammar...).

    I think it's very brave of you to do the home schooling. The whole concept is pretty foreign to me - it's as good as non-existent here in Europe.

    Little tip on the language learning: I'm not sure you're doing yourself a favour doing all the latin languages one after the other. It'll be easy to get confused that way, because they are fairly similar in some ways but really not in others...

  8. This is such a COOL idea! I wish I could get Dana to do something like this with me.

    I took 8 years of French in school but hardly remember any of it from years of disuse. And I work with a couple Mexican people on a daily basis, so I know some bare bones Spanish. But I long to backpack through Italy someday, so I desperately want to learn Italian!

    Good luck! I am in awe!

  9. Hi,

    Just wanted to say I love your blog. I'm a new author and I'm quickly realizing that I love having this new creative outlet. Thanks for you post. I'm now a follower her and I will be back for updates.

  10. Michelle: What a beautiful trip! There are lots of other places I want to visit, too... but realistically, we're thinking it will have to be in 10 years or so when our child(ren) is(are) old enough to either come with us and enjoy it, or take a long vacation at Grandma's. Haha.

    RaShelle: Japanese is cool! My dad works for a Japanese company, but I only know a few words (and not how to spell them). I like that answering the phone sounds like "Mushy mushy!"

    Tessa: Whoa, you are a wealth of language info! Want to visit Michigan and tutor my kids someday?? Homeschooling is probably less common in Europe because the K-12 schools are much better than here. If I were Dutch or something, I'd send my kid off on the school bus.

    Meika: 8 years is a lot! I'm sure it would come back to you if you studied it again.

    Melissa: Welcome! To the world of authorship and to my crazy little blog!

  11. Hey, just wanted to let you know, I gave you a couple of awards over on my blog. See ya!

    And, I like that too. =D

  12. Hehe yea I also have lots of random knowledge stuck in my head.

    Seriously, if you ever need any reading tips or something let me know. And I'd totally tutor your kids if you were in Europe...hmm but then they would probably be in school...ah well. ; )

  13. Wow - good luck with your six languages in six months! I still remember some Spanish and German words from when I was in school, but I couldn't put together a sentence.

    And I'm so glad to hear you're feeling better in your second trimester - hooray!


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