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Re: "Useful languages"

From:Roger Mills <romilly@...>
Date:Friday, February 15, 2002, 5:52
General comment on this "language-learning" thread.  I learned Spanish
mainly by the reading/writing method in high school (and did not get into
real conversation until well into college-- even then it involved discussing
written texts, Borges for one, thank God).  But on my first and only trip to
Spain, I stepped off the plane and was utterly tongue-tied.  (Things did
improve.)  Further college study, with native Spanish lecturers who rightly
demanded that we speak and write in Spanish helped a lot; it certainly gave
me a good, albeit bookish, vocabulary.  A summer in South America on
business was a real total immersion course.  At one point thereafter, I was
sufficiently fluent that Latinos in this country would ask where I came from
(very good for the ego!).  That's long gone, but I still read and enjoy
novels and poetry without difficulty.

I learned Indonesian in grad school, the first two years totally by the oral
method, and not a lot of reading even after that.  In Indonesia, apart from
minor boo-boos (e.g. devising "Indonesian" words based on proto-forms-- it
doesn't always work) there was never a problem speaking; but reading was
another matter-- spoken and written Indo., especially academese, are very
different, at least IMHO.

The problem with foreign language teaching in the US is that almost no
schools nowadays _require_ you to study one, and the few that do seem to
think that 2 years is enough.  Anyone who is seriously interested in a
language has to wait until the college level for any kind of in-depth study.


Danny Wier <dawier@...>