People say that if you really want to change you can but I'm afraid I don't buy it. Take me learning Spanish. I have done evening classes for nearly a year and a half now and I am totally fluent if by fluent you mean I could easily converse with a group of Spanish five year olds. The current class I am in is mostly peopled by people who have advanced Spanish but like taking an intermediary class just to show off. Or maybe it is simply a situation of Us and Them. The people who effortlessly learn foreign languages are simply Them and I am simply an Us. I really do adore all of the people in my class but the penny is only now belatedly starting to drop that not only are they all doing the homework they are listening to Spanish radio on the internet and doing extra study to get themselves up to snuff while I basically gaze at my navel and fantasize about Enrique Iglesias whispering Spanish nothings in my ear.
Oh cripes it really is a case of doing it (studying Spanish) every day but what is going to be the motivation? It's time to have a motivational fantasy to keep me going. In a year's time I will be asked to host a S. American chat show and I will need to speak fluent Spanish! Yes of course. I mean how do these Them people do it? How do they learn Spanish JUST FOR FUN when learning Spanish is not fun apart from the lessons when you do role play in broken Spanish about, "Now we are fishing with our rods. You have a very long fish. Would you like to see my fish?"
So far the class is stricly Us and Them. The Us is me and a sixty year old jolly English nun who I will call Sister Valium because she is always high even though she isn't on anything. She seems to study a great deal but isn't really any good.
Then there is the Them group. The main people in that group are: Harry Potter - a totally nice looking French Canadian guy but scratch beneath the surface and you'll find a Type A. Firstly he told us that when he moved to Baltimore to do his PhD he had never spoken English and just 'picked it up' when he got here to the level where you could do a PhD. I thought, WHAAAATTTTTT? He seems to be living in some kind of world pre supermarkets because he said when he goes fishing in Canada he brings six ice boxes of fish down to Baltimore (WHY? And where does he store them?) Then he said he makes all his own cheese and pickles his own vegetables and has whole bookshelves full of them. But the wierdest thing he said was when we were discussing what we did over Thanksgiving and he said he cooked a twelve pound turkey JUST FOR HIMSELF. He did not break down and sob with embarassment about this i.e. that he had no friends to invite for Thanksgiving. He is cheerful as you like and insanely good at Spanish. I mean come on, even Sister Valium had seven nuns over for Thanksgiving. I am wondering if maybe Harry Potter and Sister Valium might not get together one day because she once told me she thought he was 'very handsome' and winked saucily. I don't think the forty year age gap should put them off.
Bird Lady - a sixty year old wizened crone who told me she 'hates kids but loves birds' and who without a trace of embarassment has told us that she is learning Spanish especially the Spanish names of birds because she is a bird fancier and wants to go on a Spanish bird watching holiday. She also works in a bank as a computer programmer ten hours a day and somehow has the time to be absolutely brilliant at Spanish in her spare time. Makes me spit let me tell you.
There are a few other Thems in the class but none of them are that interesting. There are a couple of middle aged eggheads who are going off to an Argentinian holiday soon to 'perfect their Spanish' who I have mercifially palmed off a ton of Argentinian pesos on knowing that if I held on to those notes until I was next in Argentina it might be too late and the currency might be worthless as toilet paper.
So what I am really wondering is do you have to be a cheese making high flyer or bird fancier i.e. be someone who is totally unembarassed by having a mindblowing boring hobby to be good at languages? I mean I can't imagine admitting a passion for a holiday tracking the yellow bellied warbler let alone admitting I'd ever made a turkey for one. Jesus I'd go and join an AA meeting before I'd sit home pulling a cracker between myself and slicing up a twelve pound turkey before cutting my jugular. Know what I mean? My point is that right now I am an Us but I want to be a Them. I want to astound people at parties with my fluent Spanish. I've got a feeling slackerhood is no longer cool. Maybe I've missed the new trend. I've got a feeling Nerddom is the new black and I missed the trend. What about you - are you an Us or a Them when it comes to learning languages?
Who am I? Displaced Londoner now living in the States with my two little girlies and long suffering husband. Co-author of hilarious parenting book Cocktails at Naptime www.cocktailsatnaptime.com
My mom's an Austrian, my dad's a Brit, which makes me a Britaustrian, or possibly an Austrish?