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Learning a Language the Odin way
Air dropping into new countries
Welcome, aspiring polyglot! It was recently brought to my attention that my language learning methodology is…unique. I think understanding where it comes from and why I believe what I do about learning languages may help those who are still on the fence decide to pull the trigger and start taking their target language seriously. These will be personal-ish stories with all names redacted or changed, the goal is to provide some insight into why I think they way I do and suggest the things I do with regards to language acquisition. With that said, here is the first story!
Costa Rica: The First International Experience
Growing up, we never really had much. I knew that, even as a young child, so I did my best to act accordingly. By the time I made it to high school things had changed quite a bit, parents had new jobs, we lived in a new city, but we were never what anyone would call wealthy. Still, they managed to provide me with more experiences than most people will ever have the opportunity to have.
The following 5 part series will be a collection of those experiences and how they led me to being the anonymous cartoon language guy. My goal in sharing these personal stories is to give you a peek into the things that await you at the end of your language learning journey. With that said, in sophomore year of high school, the Spanish club at our school was slated to take a trip to Spain at the low low cost of $3000.
As I already mentioned, we didn’t have much money, especially with the prospect of university looming. While I’m sure it was a difficult thing to do, my parents asked that I not go and I didn’t put up a fight. I understood our situation and I knew that a week in Spain for 3k wasn’t worth it, especially considering how little Spanish the class spoke. I left it there and really never gave it a second thought until, one day, my parents approached me with a proposal: How would you like to go to Costa Rica for 4 months and study Spanish at the University of Costa Rica?
Excuse me what??
Though I had never given it a second thought, my parents had continued searching for something for me to do to replace this Spanish trip. I have always loved languages and been drawn to people from other cultures and countries. While I didn’t see it, my parents knew they had the opportunity to set me up for success long term. So they found an immersion program offered through the local community college.
The best part? It was 4 months, not 1 week; and it was $1500 not $3000. Not only that, but upon completion of the course you received university credit for whichever Spanish classes you took and passed during the program. Suddenly missing out on the trip to Spain didn’t seem like such a drag afterall. I had also had the opportunity to further advance my Spanish which would prove useful for the upcoming challenges.
As the end of my junior year of high school approached, I prepared to spend the entirety of the summer in a foreign country, my first time leaving the USA. Growing up in a town of 4000 (surrounding areas added another 15k) I had no idea what to expect, but I knew it was going to be a wild ride. The year came to an end, we headed towards the airport, and by the time I realized it was real I was boarding the plane at my layover prepping for the final leg. Next thing I knew I was disembarking the plane, walking into a country that would change my life forever.
Walking out of the arrivals gate, I expected to see a smiling host family, holding a sign waving me over to them. I saw none of those things. Instead, I walked unceremoniously into an open space with few, if any, people waiting to greet loved ones.
Anymore this wouldn’t be an issue. At that time, however, I didn’t speak Spanish (only had public schooling for it), I didn’t have a smartphone to access the internet and help with translating, and no one spoke English enough to help me. That said, I also knew that the last thing you want to do when entering a country is look lost. So I made a plan, which wasn’t really a plan, and I headed out the door.
Then, my love of languages paid off for the first time in my young life. In fact, without having spent the time to learn the language I did in high school, I am not sure how I would have made it to my host family’s house. I probably would have missed out on chasing monkeys around at night, swimming beneath waterfalls, and making some life long connections. But more on that next week!
Originally I set out to make this a 5 part series, but it seems it will likely be 5 parts split into 2 parts each. The overarching theme will be making connections, fraternal and romantic, in countries around the world and how languages play a part in that. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, make sure to subscribe!
Up next: Should you stay in a relationship when leaving the country?