On my way to becoming a polyglot

Cartagena, ColombiaMusic is a divine gift. So is language. My mother tongue, Chinese, is a gift from my mother. There is no denying of that. I was very blessed that I acquired a second language, English. It took me almost 2 decades before my English was elevated to the same level of proficiency as my Chinese. Today, I have a plan to become a polyglot, someone who speaks at least 3 languages. I am studying Spanish.

I live in Vancouver, Canada, not quite exactly the American Southwest with its large Spanish-speaking population. So, Spanish is not a necessity to my daily life. So, why Spanish?

Looking back, Spanish first piqued my interest during my graduate studies. I was fascinated by the history of Latin America and at the same time appalled by the political oppression that its people were facing. I picked up a text book to learn Spanish, and managed to learn counting, from 1 to 10, in Spanish.

My Spanish aspiration laid dormant for the next 20 years, until I was in my fifties. The main credit for the resurgence must go to the book, The Story of Spanish. It traces the development of the Spanish language from pre-Roman time to present-day American influence. Very interesting read, from both the historical and the linguistic perspectives.

An arguably more significant motivation for my renewed Spanish adventure is an internal one. Learning a new language is hard work. I knew that from my prior experience. But, it is also invigorating. Nothing is more rewarding than to see one’s progress in mastering a language. If you need more convincing, I point you to studies that had shown that learning a second language delays the onset of several forms of dementia.

Learning Spanish is much easier for English speakers than say Chinese speakers. Spanish has a well defined grammar, and you will find many words that resemble remarkably their equivalent English counterparts.

Technology has made language learning accessible and inexpensive. All you need is a smartphone and Internet access. Duolingo is a free app that you can download to your Android or iPhone. I completed the Spanish course on Duolingo. It was not easy for me, but it was fun and rewarding. There are other tools which I have been using together with Duolingo to learn Spanish. The key is to start with one, and Duolingo is my recommendation.

It is never too late to learn a new language. If you are interested to know the (free) tools I have been using to learn Spanish, or share with me your experience, drop me a comment below.

¡Hasta pronto!

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