They say the easiest time in your life to learn a language is when you’re a child. Unfortunately for most of us, we don’t have a choice of what language we want to learn at that stage of our lives. However, we can learn a language at an older age and rest assured that whilst your brain isn’t as malleable as it once was, your brain is still capable of making new cells and new connections.
Languages for me have always been about opening my eyes to the world and connecting with people. It’s another medium to experience the world with and keeps the brain young.
I remember the moment in my life when I decided that I would learn Spanish one day. I was in Spain. Aside from hola, gracias y tostada con tomate por favor, I didn’t have any other words up my sleeve.
I had just arrived in Sevilla and showed my taxi driver the address of my Airbnb. He drove me into town to the Las Setas and told me this is as far as he can go and gave me directions (all in Spanish) and with hand gestures. I nodded and smiled with a thumbs up. I really should have done more research before I arrived and at least had pictures of a map on my phone. That was ill planning on my behalf. For those that have ever been to Sevilla, you will know that it’s a maze of winding streets. I ended up spending the next 60 mins asking random people for directions until finally, someone who has headed in the same direction took me in the right direction. I decided that before the next time I end up travelling to a Spanish speaking country- I would learn Spanish (formally).
Fast forward a few years later and I am sitting in my first Spanish class at the Cervantes Institute in Sydney with other individuals nervously chatting to each other like we’re all in kindergarten. There is something comforting about being in the same room with other adults ready to learn about something by choice. Everyone had such different reasons for being there. For some (like myself) it was for travel. Others had partners and families who were Spanish speakers and they wanted to be able to finally converse more in-depth with their in-laws. Some simply wanted to meet new people and challenge themselves.
For the next 8 weeks, we learnt through whiteboard notes, powerpoint presentations the teacher made to introduce us to Spanish/hispanic culture and geography and games. I love learning about the language idiosyncrasies that can explain why certain cultures think and value different things in certain ways. We played so many games.
Hangman, listening to Spanish songs, snakes and ladders and class trivia. Time really does fly when you’re having fun.
I continued on with classes for over a year. Loving how much fun the classes were (most of them!). Whilst not fluent or anywhere near being able to understand the news, it has helped me since on my travels to Spanish speaking countries.
I think it comes down to having the motivation to learn. Perhaps it will take longer as an adult but if you’ve got a language or 3 under your belt, that really helps with learning a new language. Perhaps you’ve already picked up on words through family, friends, travels or through media. Whatever the reason and what ever the language, it’s never too late to start.
Have you recently started learning a new language? How has the journey been so far?
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