One thing I never thought I’d do is study a language for no reason, but lately I’ve been learning Spanish all over again (third try, after half-hearted and deflating attempts in high school and college). I tried Duolingo and got hooked, completed my “tree” and then moved on to the pedagogically superior (but slightly less free) Babbel. I’ve checked out books of Spanish language stories from the library, listened to Spanish language podcasts on my commute, and followed the exploits of Latin American comic heroes like Mafalda and Condorito. I mentally compose Spanish sentences throughout the day and listen to Spanish-language music while I work (there’s a lot more out there than the Latin pop stuff). I still have a long way to go before I can say I “know” Spanish (I’m at an A2 level on the CEFR) but I’ve outpaced any of my earlier efforts and I’m lot more motivated and confident.
I really do it in the time I used to spend on Facebook, and in the same way: a little here, a little there, mostly on my PC (even on five-minute work breaks) and sometimes on my phone. I think the online tools help a lot. Online tools fit my learning style and my lifestyle. I do better when I’m not being scolded for not rolling my Rs correctly or whatever.
But the main thing is that I decided languages were not my thing, and now I’ve decided, in my mid-forties, that they can be my thing. I made up my mind too soon about what my limits were. Now I see so many missed opportunities — the languages I could have learned by now, the mastery I could have attained. If I had decided at age 15, or 25, or even 35 that I could learn Spanish, I could now be reading Borges, Marquez, and Fuentes in the originals. I could even be reading Don Quixote in the original (which must be daunting even for native Speakers, but I don’t know.) I could be conversing freely and fluently. But better late than never.
I am suddenly taken with how most of the hemisphere opens up by speaking one more language (and if I refresh my knowledge of Portuguese, practically all of the hemisphere — don’t take that personally, Haiti and
Guyana Suriname). Throughout my 40s I’ve kept revising myself.
So this is the year I decided to learn Spanish. Yo quiero que continuar. Dedos cruzados.