Andrei Marks · May 24, 2008

The biggest mistake of all was not learning Tagalog. Not a particularly popular or widely spoken language, but it was available to me as a child. My Mom, a filipina, was there as a resource but I never bothered to learn any. I didn’t even think twice about it. So I missed out on the double A bilingual boat, and grew up stranded on straight English. Not that I regret that; I love my mother tongue, and the more I study other languages the more I appreciate its quirks and nuances.

My father was an army officer, and I moved around quite a bit as a kid, and spent a good amount of time overseas. Hong Kong, Korea, Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, I’d lived in or been to all these places. All those chances! I went to a Korean after school program, I studied a little Mandarin at school in Hong Kong, had some futile attempts at weekend Chinese school, but nothing substantial ever came of it.

Back in the United States language studies started with Spanish in 7th grade, up until junior year of high school. I didn’t have bad teachers, and I had great grades in the classes, but now I couldn’t for the life of me stammer out any Español that would be more than only borderline coherent. I also took two years of Latin, but God help me if I try declining anything. Agricola, agricolae, agricolae, agricolam, agricola. Haha, that’s about it for me, both grammar and vocabulary-wise.

So what was the problem? I wasn’t thinking about “language study” as “language study”. I was just thinking of it as “study”. It was just another course (or another annoyance). It would be many years before I came to where I am now, where I’m aware that the “language” in “language study” puts this pursuit in a different class then mere “study”. Language is a fundamental human trait, and the acquisition of it lies far outside the realm of pure academic study. You need to soak in language, to breathe it in, to wrap yourself in it and live it. Otherwise you’re just walking around in circles, talking crazy.

Next time: Hits!

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