Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Birth of a language addict....

Ok - when I started the blog I gave a little history of my life of language. But there was no good indication of really how I became OR why I consider myself now to be a "language addict". Here's that story.

In Spring 2005, on a complete whim, I was invited to spend a week in Tokyo. My good friend's father is a conductor, and had a concert with a symphony orchestra there. So we'd go, see some rehearsals, enjoy the city, see the concert, and go home. It was all planned with under 6 weeks to go, and it was CRAZY.

A friend of mine slipped me a set of MP3s of the intro lessons to Pimsleur Japanese. 7 lessons, covering basic hello goodbye can you speak I would like... and something about this struck a chord with me. Maybe it was the Pimsleur method - the graduated repetition... or maybe I was in the mood for a challenge. But I attacked those 7 30 minute lessons with gusto, listening to each 3-4 times to truly master them.

Of course when I got to Tokyo, the knowledge flew straight out of my head, and I barely squeaked out an "arigato" given the opportunity. But in the safety of my own thoughts, I had a bunch of Japanese phrases that I truly KNEW, and it felt like a wonderful secret, a superpower I could use at some point.

But Japanese was perhaps overwhelming to think about: All the kanji and kana and not being able to READ it... So I decided to redirect my newfound love of language codebreaking to another language that I had secretly loved: German.

Oh, watching Wings of Desire or Run Lola Run, or listening to Propaganda or Nena, that teutonic tongue called to me. I knew I needed to unlock its secrets. So I sprung for the full 90 lesson Pimsleur, and barreled through them. And I looked for people to speak German with... and came up short. My German was fresher than anyone's who had taken it in High School or College, so my conversations were pretty one-sided. Plus, the verbal method isn't the BEST for learning all of the crazy cases and word orders... there's some real study you need to do with that dang language.

But being done with Pimsleur German, I missed my half hours of learning new codes, of decoding new secrets. So I did Pimsleur Spanish - 90 lessons. And now I'm doing Pimsleur Japanese (lesson 60 just finished) and Mandarin (lesson 26 down), and using podcasts to keep learning in ALL languages... I have flash cards, and workbooks...

And the crazy thing is that I'm finding that the more I work on multiple languages simultaneously, the more I'm able to absorb in ALL of them: It's like when the brain is open to new language pathways, why not just keep building them? So far I haven't had many situations where I'm trying to grab a phrase in Chinese and a Japanese one comes to mind - they stay in their compartments.

This fits in with the brain training work I do - www.brainready.com is the site - where we preach that the more you exercise your brain, the more limber it is and the more readily you can assimilate new information. Learning languages is FANTASTIC brain exercise, and doing 30-60 minutes of language keeps me sharp to be able to manage multiple roles at multiple clients in my regular jobs, as well as easily turn on the creative juices when our podcasts need some music...

So that's sort of where my "addiction" came from: I readily admit that in terms of language gurus, I'm a novice, only coming at this seriously for over a year... my grasp of these languages is elementary, but improving. But I think I have a true passion for this... and look forward to continuing to share my expedition with anyone who cares to read about it.

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