My language background is two years of high school Latin (which I have found to be surprisingly useful), and two years of HS and one year of college German (for which the only use I have found is translating what Wehrmacht soldiers are saying in old World War Two movies.)
Actually, the one time I had a chance to put that German to use was about 12 years ago when I had the opportunity to travel to Germany with the local Air National Guard unit. (I was acting as a civilian TV news producer and photographer, not a member of the ANG.) That experience demonstrated how useless a language can be if it is just barely learned and then sits unused for 25 or more years.
At Ramstein Air Force Base, I saw a number of street signs with the designation “Einbahn Strasse.”
I remembered enough German to know that Strasse means “street.” So I wondered, “who is this ‘Einbahn’ guy who has all these streets named after him?” After awhile, it hit me like one of those stupid-bolts from out of the blue. . The American translation for Einbahn Strasse is pretty common in this country – “One Way Street.” Duh!
So my latest adventure in languages is a learn-while-you-drive CD I borrowed from the local library. I have been listening to the first CD in the set over and over for the past couple of days commuting. It is not going well.
First – I am a very visual learner. I have difficulty remembering the vocabulary without seeing it.
Second – What happened to all the consonants in the French language? I have a hearing deficiency and wear hearing aids. Consonants are my weak area. The French speakers on the CD just compound it. Everything sounds like they are just slurring vowels together.
Third – I’m just an idiot. (Note reference to “Einbahn Strasse” above.)
In any case, I’m going to keep at it, at least for a while longer. I don’t need to translate Voltaire; I just hope to be able to ask for directions if necessary.
Years ago, I had a friend whose dream was to be a foreign correspondent. (He achieved that by the way.) He always said, his goal was to be able to say “Where to you find the hot babes in this town?” in at least six languages. I don’t think that is on my language CD, and besides, Mrs. Poolman wouldn’t appreciate me practicing that one anyway.