12 December 2010

The value of stuff

I was only a block away when I noticed it. My hand was bare. I frantically searched all of my pockets. Then I turned around and retraced my path. My ring was gone and I had only lost it sometime between the dentist chair and a block away.

The ring did not have any precious stones, nor was it gold. It only held sentimental value for me. This ring was the only thing that I wore all the time, even when bathing, even when swimming, even when sleeping. It was a gift from my mother.

I am actually surprised that I had not lost it earlier. Having lost over 40 pounds in the last few years, the ring was loose on my hand.

Back at the dentist’s office, the staff was so kind to let me interrupt the new occupant in the chair and even helped me look for the ring. But I never found it.

I was a bit melancholic the day I lost my ring. Afterwards, I started thinking about the value of stuff. I valued this little ring highly and am now sad that it is gone. And I have stuff in boxes and on shelves that I know I would not miss were I to lose them.

I still subconsciously check that the ring is still there on my hand, when it no longer is. Now I am more determined now to free myself of stuff I don’t value anymore.

08 December 2010

Do or do not. There is no try.

Sunday night, my family and I went to the Zilker Tree Lighting Celebration here in Austin. It was also a chance to chat with Randy, from Yearlyglot, who happened to be visiting the capitol city this weekend. As we chatted, he asked me, so you’re learning Spanish? I answered, Yes, I’m trying to learn Spanish. He quickly pointed out that I shouldn’t say “try”. And I agree.

This is something that I have been trying to get out of my everyday vocabulary, here in my writing, as well as my everyday speech. I made the conscience decision to do this a few months ago. I find it creeps in to my speech in other ways. “I’d like to do that.” “We plan to do that.” etc.

Thanks Randy for pointing out one of my own pet peeves about myself. I am not just trying to get it out of my lexicon, I am doing it right now!

03 December 2010

Why do kids learn language so easily?

I’ve been observing the growing language skills of my 2-going-on-3 year old. I’ve been taking notice of how he has moved from one and two word sentences to expressing more complex ideas like supposed events that will take place in the future.

Watching him acquire the English language has made me reflect on my own second language acquisition of Spanish. Not only is he quite talkative around people he knows well, he also experiments with sounds and sentence structure. He freely talks to me. When he makes a grammatical or pronunciation error, I correct him, and he enthusiastically will repeat the correction.

What my son has is a lack of fear in learning English. He knows that I will not ridicule him for saying something incorrectly. He has confidence in his current abilities, too. This is the key, so I will repeat: he is confident and lacks fear about learning English. We should all be this way when we learn a second language.

It’s interesting to note that my son is resistant to me speaking to him in Spanish. He’ll say, "Oh, mama, don’t say that." or "I don’t like that." He has a basic need to learn English because of his environment. He doesn’t need to know Spanish, and is not really motivated to learn. I can get him to watch Plaza S├ęsamo with me. But, I think, for my son, that is really the motivation of seeing Elmo, not learning Spanish.

I personally don’t buy into the common notion that as we age, our ability to learn a second language decreases. I have read recommendations on parenting websites that you should start exposing your child to foreign language learning and experiences before age 2 or else the brain will not be capable of acquiring a second language as easily.

One person who has learned multiple languages as an adult, and debunks this theory, is Benny Lewis. He has a wonderful website, Fluent in Three Months, where he tracks his 3 month language missions and travels around the world. If you are interested in learning a second language, or need a confidence boost, Benny is the man to read. I have just downloaded his Language Hacking Guide, and I’m looking forward to reading it this weekend.

With inspirations like Benny, I know it is possible for me to become fluent in Spanish. And I will continue to watch and admire my son as his English proficiency grows, and will model his enthusiasm and confidence as I work towards my own fluency in Spanish..