Warning: I might bore the hell out of you because this is quite long. But if you do decide to try, I hope you won’t regret the time you spend in reading my journey and the love-hate relationship I’ve had with Foreign languages.
It was eight years ago that I began learning Foreign languages, that is, besides English. The fondness mainly started when I was in grade school when I found this very old Spanish book called, Es Facil Escribir in one of my mother’s old stuff. She said it was from her sister’s.
As a child, I’ve always had this penchant for learning. I read a lot of reading materials- from books to old magazines to newspapers, even my mother’s college notebooks, which by the way were already very hard to read as it was either torn out or dilapidated.
I was a very curious child. I do play with other kids in school and in our neighborhood but most of the time, I am happiest when I am just observing things and people. You knew about how I loved watching the night sky, right? How I’d lay in an open field for several hours waiting for the sun to come down until the sky turned pitch black? How I’ve counted shooting stars every night and telling my younger brother that I’ve counted more stars this night than the day before it? How I’d trace the sky looking for the Big Dipper and Orion? Imagining myself walking on the moon? Yes, those are one of the activities I’ve missed doing as a child.
More than chit-chatting with people, I was rather engrossed in observing them and realizing how unique we are from one another. I grew up a silent kid, maybe one of the most reserved and courteous kids in school, from elementary grade until college. Never in my life did I talk back to someone older than me. I would reason out but I always try to explain in a manner that is easier for people to understand my point and respect my view on things. As a consequence of being observant, I don’t find it hard to pick up cues about what people are thinking or how they feel. It was rather not that difficult either to know people’s secrets. Even until now.
If you don’t believe me, then good. At least I won’t have to prove anything. Haha!
Sometimes, I am in loved with not doing anything. To just stare blankly into the distance and let my mind wander aimlessly.
As a result of being sensitive to the feelings of people and how things are in my surrounding, I became more introverted as I grow up. Reading brought me the enthusiasm and desire to be something I am not yet at present but at the same time, it has become my outlet when my introverted self wants to shut off in order to recharge. It was also through reading that my young mind became too engrossed in knowing the different people that have made the greatest impact or contribution to our society.
When I was young, I would imagine myself as Da Vinci, Napoleon Bonaparte or even Georgina Rossetti, if not Shakespeare. That’s why I used to write poems (which often prompted my Kuya (older brother) to steal my notebook and read aloud my poems in front of people in an attempt to embarrass me). I did not care.
Sometimes, I am a peasant living in the medieval period. Sometimes, I am Joan of Arc. My Kuya is a living testament of me being the latter. I fight with him like Gabriela Silang (our version of the French heroine), even until now because he is my favorite enemy and I love him to bits. Haha!
Science, Literature, History, and Geography became my favorite subjects in school, although I did struggle with Physics. Lol. I love Science so much although I am more artistically-inclined. Literature and History breathes a different life into me. I’ve learnt of peoples and their lives. Everytime I hear a new name being mentioned in class, I would memorize it so I could search it over later in the encyclopedia at our library. Sometimes, I would intentionally search for French names or places and then try to pronounce it correctly. I remember in high school when our teacher discussed about Rene’ Descartes and my classmates got confused whether the teacher just mispronounced the name or what and some were staring at me waiting for confirmation.
Because I had very little exposure to the internet at those times due to I was incapable to pay for an hour of internet use in the net cafe’, from high school to college, Encyclopedia Britannica became my favorite book. She became my bestfriend in silence. Lol! How wonderfully awful!
Knowing that the people I read in books came from different backgrounds and cultures, with a different upbringing and treading different lives, was a very interesting subject to me. It opened a lot of doors for learning and widen my perspective of the world.
Language is the tool that enables us to connect with one another. It enables us to communicate our thoughts and ideas, it breaks barriers among peoples, it forges relationships. We are interconnected by a web of different languages that are as complex and important as the veins in our body. So why not learn another one or two?
Eight years ago, upon searching for a language learning site, I came to know Livemocha. It was I think, the greatest platform for learning languages then. You can learn at your own pace if you want, while you have the opportunity to teach others the language you know. It was give-and-take for most of the users as anyone can contribute with the translations on your exercises and vice versa. The learning materials were excellent. You learn from the basic until you progress to more complex lessons. I was learning Italian at that time. Why Italian? I don’t know. Maybe because of Da Vinci? Haha! Or maybe because I have a special love for Italy. Si, amore mio. Barely a year into Livemocha, I dropped off my course to focus on trying to be an adult. In short, I became busy with making a living that I couldn’t find a time to get on my lesson.
In the middle of 2016, I decided I am going back to learning languages- to pursue my Italian lessons in Livemocha. But when I searched it over, I found out that it was already shut down by Rosetta Stone after it acquired Livemocha, just two months prior. Nice strategy for Rosetta for killing a competitor. But it was bad news for me and to the 12 million members of the site. I searched again and I was introduced to Hellolingo. The site has a separate room for Livemocha members but still, I do not recommend it to beginners as the means of learning in Hellolingo would require you to have at least an intermediate level of the language that you are trying to learn. Why? They don’t have any learning materials on hand as of the moment. So unless you can find a diligent language partner who is willing to help you with your goal, who is selfless enough to dedicate his precious time to teach you and who has a gargantuan amount of patience for someone who don’t even know what articles to use for each noun, learning in Hellolingo for absolute beginners is remotely possible. That is from my own standpoint. Although I still have a few friends there who help me with learning Italian and Spanish, I now rarely use Hellolingo.
I used Hellolingo for several months to try to see if I could improve given that I was back at being an ignoramus to anything Italian. Until someone introduced me to Duolingo in September of 2016. I could not exactly remember her name but I was overly thankful for her. She was an angel.
But even with a good platform as Duo, I went off and on from my lessons. Several times I was so pumped up that I would allot 2 hours every night for 3 straight months in my Italian lessons, even when I was overly tired from work. If you do not know me yet, I only have 5-6 free hours every day which I set aside to reading, studying, checking some friends and sleeping. So with 2 hours given to my Italian, I only have four remaining hours to sleep. It was exhausting but I was happy.
And then, something bad happened and I went off track for almost four months. Never a single day did I check Duo at that time. I got back up again and tried to regain momentum. I leveled up my daily goal to 30 points. When you are at the easier level, 30 points is no sweat. Until I progressed and my lessons became a pain in the ass. Oops, I am sorry!
So my journey to language learning was a love-hate relationship. I loved learning and I was so excited and inspired to learn and all, but I hated it when I fail to maintain my streak. I was not good at recovering from loss. That’s why I would stay off the radar for several months to recompose myself. Lol.
So all in all, accounting only the time I spend in Duo, let’s say I have been learning Italian for 10 months now. Last Friday, after being away for a few months, I finally completed my Italian course. But the downside is because I wasn’t frequent with doing the exercises, my Italian fluency is now down to 56%. So yeah, do not expect much from me. But the good side with completing the course, I had unlocked all of the lessons and I could now browse back on them anytime to practice.
Non potevo ancora parlare l’Italiano. Ma potrei cantare canzoni l’italiani. Would you want me to sing O Sole Mio? 😀
When I came to Duo, I signed up for Italian, Spanish and German courses. Later on, I decided I am going to focus on Italian and German or Spanish could be done after. Italian has its roots in Latin as with Spanish and French so I thought it was easier to do and given that the Philippines was under Spanish rule for more than three centuries, I thought it would not be too difficult to learn thinking some vocabulary would be distinguishable. But with subjects like things having its genders, it makes it quite interesting to test your stamina, if not make you more confused.
So now, I am deciding on whether to proceed with German or Spanish. I have also signed up for French, Swedish, Norwegian and Chinese. Spanish would be easier as it is more or less like Italian so I’d probably do it.
Maybe also because last Wednesday, our Spanish supplier from Barcelona paid a visit at the factory for the second time. He was gracious to send an email after his visit last year about the origin of my name:
And he was kind enough to remind me again last Wednesday about my name and the musical and why I should really come to Barcelona. Even showed me the print out of our communication loop. These are simple gestures but at a time when I wasn’t in my best shape, this means a lot to me more than anything. I am quite humbled that a CEO of a company would really do that.
When we are stripped off of our stature and power, when we are bare-naked and our belongings and what material things we possess are taken from us, we all are the same human being. So always try to be good.
One time a few years ago, one blogger also sent me a link informing me about a museum in Sitges named Maricel. This is also in Barcelona. So I have 2 reasons now why I should go to Barcelona. I mean, study Spanish.
An Italian friend who also teaches Spanish at a university is helping me with Italian and he is willing to help me with Spanish as well. I hope he has enough patience though. 🙂
Now, all I need is to start again. A new challenge is in sight but I will take risks for my dreams.
“Es Facil Escribir”, the title of the book never escaped from me since I found it almost three decades ago. And with mother trying to teach me with what she still remembers with regards to Spanish and Mandarin because she also knows a bit of Mandarin, my interest to learn another language continued to grow. Who would have thought that the worn-out book would spark my interest to venture into learning languages. Unconsciously, it drove my young self to the idea of loving foreign languages. I have not seen the book for a long time but when I searched it on my bookshelf, it was still there, worn-out as it already was. But this time, it may just serve another purpose.
Spanish was once the official language of the Philippines. Through time and with different political leaders holding the highest post ratifying the constitution, the use of Spanish as the official language and even as a voluntary medium for communication became less significant to the lives of the modern Filipinos.
Mi último adiós! No, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t my last farewell. I am just going to show you a masterpiece from our National hero, José Rizal called Mi Ultimo Adios which was written before he died by firing squad. Rizal himself was a polyglot.
By the way, if you would like to visit, I also have a playlist of language songs (except English) in my Youtube channel. The songs are more contemporary and modern so it may not appeal much to some folks. And I also would love to hear some suggestions on what foreign songs you’d want to add to the playlist.
At the moment, here is my current favorite. A song from the French singer Maître Gims entitled “Tu Vas Me Manquer” or I will miss you in English.
Did you get this far? Well then, thank you. It was really not that long.
On the other hand, I am sorry. 😀
Abbi cura di te.