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Learning Languages (Not)

  • March 10, 2019
  • Blog


Long ago, in a job far away, I was approached by a coworker. The conversation went like this:

“Do you know Hungarian?”

I looked at him blankly. “Hungarian?”

“Yes, someone told me that you were an English major so I thought I’d ask.”

“Um…I’m an English major because that’s the only language I know.”

I thought it would be obvious. Imagine my horror when I sent away for graduate school bulletins and discovered that to get a master’s degree in English (literature), I had to have a reading knowledge of French or German. Why did they think I was an English major?

I managed to squeak by in French. It’s a beautiful language with a rich literature but that wasn’t the point. I suck at other languages. It’s a mystery to me how friends picked up languages at the drop of a hat while I studied and memorized and only felt like a stuffed sausage.

Seven years learning Hebrew, but aside from the prayers, the best I can manage in conversation is “How are you?” I even bought Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Hebrew as an incentive to learn reading better this time around but I can’t read without the vowels (don’t ask).

So here I am again, attempting to learn a written language. I’m not mentioning which one since I could stop at any moment and once it’s out there, it’s forever. It’s early days yet, and I’m learning the language’s alphabet but feeling hopeful. We shall see.

How do you fare in speaking or reading foreign languages?


  • Lydia • March 11, 2019 at 7:42 am

    I speak and read a smattering of Spanish.

    Learning other languages is not easy! I have so much respect for people who become fluent in 2+ languages.

  • J. M. Levinton • March 11, 2019 at 9:38 am

    Spanish? Go you!

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