I’m in the process of trying to go back to school. One of the new (well, new since I went to college) requirements is to have intermediate proficiency in a foreign language. I enrolled in a Spanish class and went last week for the first time. It was, in a word, bewildering. I was lost–completely clueless as to where one word ended and another began, struggling to hear anything even remotely familiar. But it was also exciting to think that maybe someday that jumble of sounds might make sense to me.
Thirty-eight is not exactly the ideal age for language acquisition. One teacher I’ve had recently referred to the phenomenon of brain fossilization, where the language synapses in the brain are so deeply engrained that it’s extremely difficult to break out of them. That’s where I’m at. And yet I love the feeling of pushing beyond those grooves, trying to hear (and produce!) words and even sounds (will I ever be able to roll my r’s? it doesn’t seem likely) in a new way.
One of the first things they taught us was phrases we can use in prayer (this is BYU). And as I was practicing a few days ago, somehow the practice actually turned into prayer and tears flowed. I don’t think I’ve prayed vocally for years, and somehow the physical act of talking to God in a way I never had before made me crumble.
I’m interested in your experiences with languages–if you know one other than your native, how and when you learned it, and what it means to you to be able to speak another way.