I have loved language for as long as I can remember, both English and other languages. It has always been a goal of mine to be at least bilingual or multilingual, but I am as yet only fluent in English. I have never been able to travel to immersion situations because of lack of money. I picked up some Spanish fairly early on because my family had hired a Mexican woman to help around the house. That Spanish knowledge dried up as soon as I went to kindergarten, though. I don't remember being discouraged from speaking Spanish, but there weren't many Latinos at my school so there were no opportunities to keep it up.
The U.S. has always had this crazy policy of waiting til high school to require students to learn a foreign language. This although studies have proved that kids of an early age acquire languages more easily. The older one gets, the harder it is to learn an additional language. When my parents switched me to a private Catholic junior high, I got an early crack at taking Spanish. I did very well at it and excelled all the way through sophomore year of high school, when our teacher was a first year teacher. I was one of the few girls in class who actually wanted to learn Spanish so the class became a circus as soon as the rest of the class found out that the teacher was inexperienced. I wasn't disciplined enough at that age to realize that I had to take up the slack somehow. I still had a "teach me" attitude. So my Spanish skills slowly atrophied. The next year was no better as our teacher was an older woman who had had a stroke and didn't have the energy to ride herd on a bunch of rebellious, spoiled Catholic girls. I soon grew so embarrassed of the state of my Spanish attainment that I no longer practiced with native speakers. That was a big mistake.
I persuaded my parents to let me participate in the AFS program, for which I thank them. I was selected to spend a summer in Denmark. I picked up a fair amount of Danish while I was there despite the bad 16-year-old attitude that I had. I started looking for a college that had a Scandinavian program as well. I determined that I was not going to languish in Spanish class anymore; I signed up for French since I knew that the teacher was strict. I did very well in French but didn't continue since I was apprised that one can never speak French well enough for the French. Better to stick with a language where people were more supportive of learners.
I went to UCLA since I somehow managed to remain ignorant of the fact that UC Berkeley had a Scand. program. Because of various budget difficulties in the department, I ended up taking Swedish in my sophomore year. I added Danish when it came back online in my junior year. At one point I was taking Danish class and walking across the quad afterwards to take Swedish class. It was quite an exercise in recalibrating my brain and my tongue.
I should have tried to enroll in the EAP program but I was too ignorant to think of that solution. Instead I enrolled in Sjölunden, the Swedish camp run by Concordia College. It was an enjoyable experience, but not the brutal immersion I had been looking for.
As things now stand, I know more Swedish than any of the other languages I have studied and yet it's still a lot of work to even read a children's book. I've learned a couple lessons from my experience:
So, to that end, if anyone knows of some job opportunities or grants for study in Sweden or Denmark for someone of my interests and skills, let me know.
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Last modified on 3/10/97