When you begin learning another language it is a journey more than a task. No matter what language you choose, this process will change your life drastically and open up your world to lots of unique opportunities.
For me, this event happened when I was a Freshman in college. I arrived at the College of Charleston determined to expand my outlook of the world in some sense. I decided that my best option would be to learn a foreign language. My major was marketing, and although it was not recommended by my academic adviser, I signed up for Spanish 1. This class hit me like a ton of bricks. Unlike most of my other classes, this class was everyday, and there was homework assigned everyday. I was required to be in class every morning at 9 AM, and I was expected to spend 3 hours each night after class reading and completing exercises in my workbook. Worst of all, I did not even feel that I was learning anything! It was a tough decision, but I finally became fed up with this curriculum, and I dropped the class, determined to continue learning Spanish on my own.
I researched numerous different programs and looked at multiple foreign language forums, and based on all of my research I decided to put my faith into the Rosetta Stone software. I was able to reduce my study time to only 30 minutes to one hour a day, and after only three weeks use, I could tell that this curriculum was much more effective than the vocabulary cramming I was doing in the classroom. I continued with my Rosetta Stone lessons, and at the end of the semester, I was able to speak better Spanish than anyone who had taken Spanish at the university. I had heard countless times that classroom settings are not ideal for learning a foreign language, but now I was able to see first hand the truth behind this statement.
After the semester officially ended I felt very confident in my ability to teach myself Spanish, and I began frequenting the local Mexican restaurants and quickly gained friends by speaking with every waiter and waitress I came across. I was still not at a point where I could have a natural conversation, but as long as they spoke slowly, I was able to communicate effectively. Everyone was very impressed with my accent, and they were astounded when I told them that I had taught myself. This made me very popular when I would come in, and shortly I found myself dating the beautiful Chilean hostess, Margarita.
Two months later I had completed all 5 levels of my Spanish tutorial, and with casual practice with my Latin American trophy girl, I was capable of communicating with anyone speaking Spanish, regardless of how quickly he or she was talking. This entire process happened so quickly, that it did not even sink in until I introduced Margarita to my family, and my mother’s jaw dropped when she heard us communicating in Spanish. The look on her face was priceless!
The most rewarding opportunity that presented itself after I learned Spanish occurred the summer after my junior year, when I went with Margarita to see her family in Santiago, Chile. This was my first time outside of the country, and being able to communicate in their native tongue made me feel like I was a part of the community rather than a tourist. I was unable experience the beauty of the Chilean beaches due to the fact that Summer in the Northern Hemisphere is Winter in the Southern Hemisphere, but between the unique culture, the Santiago night life, and Easter Island, this two week vacation was a life changing experience. I remember the exact moment I became addicted to traveling and learning languages. Margarita and I had spent the afternoon hiking, and as we sat curled up watching the sun set across the Pacific Ocean, I decided that I was going to see as much as the world as I could and everywhere I went, I was going to speak their language.The sunset that stole my heart
When I got back to the states, I was determined to learn a new language. After doing some more research online and speaking with Margarita, we decided that our next vacation would be to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Luckily, Portuguese is very similar to Spanish, so it only took a couple of months of watching Portuguese movies and asking questions to my tutor from Rosetta Stone before I was able to master the unique pronunciation. Unfortunately, Margarita and I separated at the beginning of February, four months before my college graduation. We never made our trip to Brazil.
I was very discouraged after our relationship ended. In my broken state, I decided that I should distract myself by learning another language. It took me about two days to decide, but after long deliberation, I decided to stick with the Romantic Languages and learn Italian. In accordance with my past successes, I ordered my third copy of Rosetta Stone and began to study Italian as I finished up my marketing degree. Graduation came, and even though I was only awarded a marketing degree, I walked across the stage reminding myself that in my short stay in South Carolina, I had learned two languages fluently and was well on my way to mastering my fourth.
Due to my ability to speak fluent Spanish and Portuguese, I was offered a position at a marketing firm back home (I am originally from Chicago). They recruited me heavily and placed me as the number 3 person in charge of the entire South American marketing department. I spent my days researching trends and instructing a team of designers on marketing strategies for all of South America: specifically Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, and Venezuela.
In the midst of my new career, I continued to study Italian in my free time, and in late December, I finished my Italian lessons. To celebrate my newly earned accomplishment, I decided to make good use of my freshly acquired skill set and visit Italy. I decided to make the most of my 11 days in this amazing country; I landed in Rome, rented a car, and began on my road trip. This was the only way to ensure that I was able to see every part of the country that I was hoping to see! I headed north and stopped by Pisa on my way to Florence where I spent the first 3 nights of my trip. I then traveled northeast and stayed in Verona for one night before heading east to Triestse. I stayed in Trieste for one night and drove to back west to Venice where I spent the next 2 nights. I woke up early and drove to Rome where I spent the remaining 3 nights of my trip. I drank the finest wines, ate the finest foods, visited some of the most famous churches, castles, and museums in the world, and blended in with the Italian society perfectly. The smooth countryside, the beautiful women, the elegant art, and the extravagant architecture will be enough to capture even the coldest of hearts. I left Italy at peace with myself and all of humanity; I never knew that the world could be so beautiful.The remarkable city of Florence. Il Duomo is the name of the extravagant cathedral on the right.
My next challenge is going to be Arabic. I have two friends who speak Arabic, and I have always wanted to visit Egypt, Lebanon, and UAE. I love the food, the music, and the history of the Middle East, and I am looking forward to embracing the rest of this ancient culture.
I should also probably state that 3 months from now, I am going to finally get to practice my Portuguese in Brazil, although I am unfortunately not going to be visiting Rio de Janeiro. One of the perks of an international marketing job, I will be visiting Brazil, Argentina, and Chile over an 8 day span. This is going to be a work related trip, so I will not be playing the entire time, but anytime you leave the country, it is a thrill in itself.
One important thing to remember when studying multiple languages is that if you do not practice a language, you will eventually forget it. I am blessed in that my job allows for me to practice my Spanish and Portuguese skills regularly, and I go out of my way to buy meat from an Italian butcher shop in Chicago to keep my Italian skills sharp. I also make a point to watch Italian movies on occasion and read the Vincenza newspaper, Il Giornale di Vicena, at minimum twice a week.
The decision to begin learning new languages has drastically changed my life. I have experienced numerous opportunities that as a child I viewed impossible, and I am only 25 right now. I do not feel like I am any smarter than the next guy, I have just taken advantage of numerous opportunities that have come my way. I am not special, and there is no reason that any warm-blooded human being can not do what I have done. It takes a little bit of dedication, but with the right incentives, learning a new language is sure to be an opportunity in life that you do not want to miss out on. I have seen some of the most amazing places in the world, and I do not plan on putting up my passport anytime soon.