Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Life decisions: foreign languages

Not exactly inspired by Hispanic Heritage "Month" but...
There are moments when I think that if I could go back and advise my young self I'd recommend taking three years of high school Spanish rather than three years of French, knowing that a better understanding of Español would serve me more later in life, especially living where I do (Southern California, for those who don't already know).

Of course, given how little I recall of Français it remains a strong possible I'd be in a similar position regardless of which other language I took. Unless I spoke it regularly—which clearly I would not have done during the years after high school—it would have faded. The best that would have come of it would be to be able to utter a few sentences, undoubtedly to the amusement of the native speaker having to endure me brutalizing their tongue. Still, had I done that then these days I'd be coming at the situation when I have cause to attempt to say something in Spanish it would not be learning words or phrases but trying to recall what I'd already (presumably) learned.

Granted, if I had the ability to go back and tell pre-teen Doug something to be of more use for later life, I imagine learning a different language probably wouldn't make the top fifty things that I probably should say.

Still, perhaps I fancy that (only one different set of classes in high school) might be subtle enough to not have otherwise altered the course of where my life went—somehow everything else would have gone the same in all significant ways, leaving me in the same middle age circumstances I have, but merely with the ability to converse slightly better with those who speak that language. As we've seen from pretty much every sci-fi story about time travel there is no tweaking of one thing without vastly changing everything else—maybe for the better, maybe for the worse, or simply maybe overall about the same but in different ways. The destination was unique to the specific set of decisions that led to it, and it's undoubtedly the case that I'm only Snowball's dad by being the guy who didn't take Spanish.

C'est la vie.


I didn't explain how my life would really be any better by having some Spanish background, because I don't really know that it would be. It's merely a quaint theoretical scenario based on encountering moments where someone says something I don't understand, and that doesn't occur all that much (at least with the circles in which I operate).

Given where I went ten years ago for the dragon boat tournaments (China) I would have been better served by learning Mandarin, but that was not a course offered in the early '80s in California public schools.


Will I push my child someday to take up Spanish in school when the time comes? Perhaps. Of course, there will be no way of anticipating what will serve him/her best some forty years in the future. He/she will have to make whatever seems the best decision at the time.

That's all any of us can do.

1 comment:

  1. Be aware that some people have no talent to learn a second language. I failed French twice and Spanish once in high school. As it is I'm still learning English. For example which one is correct - a UFO or an UFO?


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