I’ve never been very adept at picking up languages.
I suspect this is a result of two issues. First, I simply lack natural ability. There’s a handful of people who come by new languages effortlessly. I envy them. The second issue, and likely a compounding one, is that I probably enjoy the idea of learning a foreign language more than I like the learning itself.
It’s not for lack of half-hearted effort.
I started learning French in Junior High with Mrs. Epstein and continued on with Ms. Plumb and Mr. Konkel in High School. I still fondly remember Mr. Konkel getting furious with our class and shouting perhaps the best Spoonerism in history. I don’t recall the set-up but he meant to say “If the shoe fits” but, regrettably, he said “If the foo shits” and the class just lost it in laughter. Turning dramatically on his heel (he had a….certain flair shall we say) he walked right out the door and didn’t come back until the next day. I like to think he went home and lamented the state of our collective youth over a couple of White Russians.
Anyway, back to our story. My forays in fluency continued at WSU; with my years of training I skipped 100 level French soaring into the French 201. That, of course, was a very long time ago. However, it doesn’t stop there. I did two two-week immersion programs in France; one in Paris which was an excuse for travel and the other in Chamonix which was an excuse for skiing the Alps (which really was fantastic). All that French and you might think that I’m nearly fluent or at least borderline conversant. You’d be wrong. I can count to 50. I can find a library. And I can suggest that we all go the beach. That’s probably about it. This time, it’s going to be different.
Why? Two reasons. The first is that I have a broader goal in mind. That whole aforementioned secret agent thing. And second, I’m designing the right process. Process building has been called my super power in reviews in my career. What I haven’t done is taken this talent and pointed it inwardly. It’s time I design a course that’s going to set me on a course for confident conversation. And confidence is the key word. I need to start gradually and work my way up to proficiency before bringing on an audience. My process also needs to be multi-faceted as this is will work with my attention span issues – the principal issue being that my attention is fleeting. And finally it needs to be convenient. Committing to secret agentdom is an investment. And I already have a reasonably demanding full time job. And a husband. And there’s lots of other competencies on the list. So, I can’t sit in the car for hours a week schlepping to lessons.
To get started I’m going to try my hand at Rosetta Stone. According to Rosetta Stone it takes the average person 40-50 hours to complete a single course. I just bought courses 1-5 on Cyber Monday so this is going to take a while. I also intend on weaving in the odd French film here and there so I’m getting broader exposure than associated words with pictures (the ‘see-say’ style of Rosetta). I’m a film buff so this aligns with other interests reducing the ‘chore’ factor. Finally, when I complete the Rosetta stone courses, I’ll start looking for an online tutor; someone I can conduct classes with over Skype from the home office.
Eventually I’d like to do another immersion course, but I want this one to be about attaining fluency; focusing on whatever I want to say rather than what I can say. I’m expecting it to take a month to do properly which means this is a multi-year effort and one I’ll likely need to hold until I’m semi-retired – and that’s at least six or seven years away. If I were to exhaust a year’s vacation for this I think the husband would become rapidly less humoring.
Oh, and after that I want to try my hand at German. My last name is Berg after all so it seems apropos. And as one of my scant few Twitter followers reminded me, Bond spoke French and German being the child of a Swiss mother.
@agentseducation Bond was fluent in French and German, owing to a Swiss mother, Monique Delacroix, as described by Fleming.
— Wilmer’s Dad (@emery_cormier) December 11, 2013
Truth be told, of all of the items I’m signing up for, this is the most intimidating as it takes a prolonged and serious commitment. It’s easy enough for me to exhaust a weekend learning to fire a handgun from behind a car door. I suspect I can mange to fall out of an airplane or learn how to ride a motorcycle. This, however, is a lifelong goal and one that’s going to take real work and tenacity to achieve.
I better get started.