I’m desperate for the lads to learn another language. Properly learn it I mean. To the point that they can communicate in it. I’m not too fussed what language that is – even one with which they can only communicate with Oxbridge dons will do – but I do want them to achieve some degree of fluency in a language other than English.
I have always wanted to be fluent in another language. I’m reasonably good at learning languages, by which I mean that when I sit in language lessons the things that the teachers say to me make some kind of intuitive sense, but I’ve failed in my aim to gain proficiency in any other language.
I’ve given it a go, and have studied (formally and informally) French, Chinese and Spanish, but I’m far from fluent in any of them. Many of the reasons
I’ve failed to capitalise on my opportunities to properly learn these languages are internal I’m not fluent are my own fault, but I also think that growing up in Australia at the time I did had a pretty big impact on me. In particular, it was never obvious to me that other languages were living and thriving in other people’s minds and words. Like the periodic table of elements or supply and demand curves, languages were abstract concepts to be studied, but not used. Certainly, I grew up surrounded by families whose first language was Italian or Greek, but the respect our society gave to those languages is reflected in the fact that in the 70s or 80s, in country* Australia at least, we were still choosing between French and German at school. (I seem to recall my mother writing a note to the school suggesting that Italian might be a more relevant choice, and at one point she was in a group being taught some Adnyamathanha words, but I think we can add this to the list of things that made me wish I had a mother like everyone else’s).
Travelling made me understand that other** languages live outside textbooks and SBS. I even came to understand that there are many languages living and thriving and even dying in Australia. But living in Abu Dhabi has brought my monolingualism into focus like no other experience I have had. Perhaps this is because at times, the lads are the only children in their circle of friends who speak only one language. Or perhaps it is that here, English is the dominant language, but is the first language of so few. It’s odd, because it’s my language, but I’m on the periphery of it.
Whatever it is, the end result is the same, I’m desperate for the lads to learn, gain fluency, in another language. So, sorry lads. That promise I made that I would not live vicariously through you? Broken.
In other news, I added one too many spoons to that one too many coffee, and I’m not really as far into my assignments as I should be. If you need me, I’m at the table shaking caffeine shakes and saying to myself, ‘It’s not hard, if you’d only started three weeks ago you’d be eating these assignments’.
*when did we stop calling it ‘the country’ and start calling it ‘rural and regional Australia’
**I know all about ‘other’ and ‘othering’, but in my mind at the time they were all ‘other’.