The Journey of Learning a New Language

By Caleb Keith

The first time I ever seriously thought about learning a language other than English was in High School. One of the major graduation requirements for most High School students is two years of a foreign language, typically Spanish or French. I had no particular interest in Spanish nor French, and I was also afraid of the difficulty learning a language could pose. Luckily, my online high school program allowed me to take any language I wanted, and it could even be done via Rosetta Stone or another language learning software. My father suggested I learn Latin with his help as well as Rosetta Stone.

My Latin experience with Rosetta Stone was alright, but I never truly learned the language. Instead, I acquired a base vocabulary that dwindled over time. Rosetta Stone’s immersive learning was okay for conversations but failed at teaching grammar. This meant even after high school I had no real experience learning or wrestling with a language other than English. Going to college, I was very apprehensive about really learning a language, yet as a theology major I knew I would spend at least a year learning Greek and a year learning Hebrew. After my Freshman year, my apprehension toward language turned into desire as I began to realize if I wanted to be a true scholar worth any salt I would need to be able to work in the classical and Biblical languages.

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Last summer, I took my first real course in Latin, an eight-week intensive course that aimed to cover the entirety of what would typically be three separate Latin 1, 2 & 3 courses. That class kicked my ass, challenging me like nothing I had encountered before. Despite the heavy course load and difficult work, I passed the course. All my fear and doubt surrounding languages was gone. In the past two semesters, I have taken Greek 1 & 2 at Concordia, which have been two of my favorite and perhaps beneficial courses I have taken in college.

I share my limited linguistic journey with you as a type of encouragement. Languages, as I have come to learn, are gateways to understanding. Learning a language requires discipline and commitment that, outside of any gained ability to read or communicate, help strengthen the general principles of learning. Struggling through a new language and pushing through the grammar also changes the way you read and understand your mother tongue. One does not need to become fluent in order to gain much from this challenge of the mind. I let fear get in the way of experiencing language for years, so for anybody else sitting in that same boat, know that the difficult journey is worth the reward.

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One thought on “The Journey of Learning a New Language

  1. 我学习中文一年在台湾大学。Learning a language does all kinds of things to your brain. We would always say that the first time you dream in Chinese, you know you’ve got it! Rosetta Stone is strange, in my opinion, because it attempts to teach adults a language by simulating the environment in which a new born baby would learn a language. That’s a strange approach, because adults have critical thinking skills available to them that new born babies do not have.

    Learning a language is definitely a challenge, and it really does do crazy things to your brain. The only thing that ever literally made my brain hurt more than calculus was studying Chinese!

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