Trying to keep my mind exercised, and not interested in most of the reading materials that I can find.
I decided to attempt to learn a language. Actually, two. The dilemma is, how do I do that without going to school - not an option - and without spending too much $$$.
I read that mature adults are actually able to learn languages effectively, if more slowly than kids. The truism, that only young people can learn a foreign language, has been debunked by research. Older brains do have less plasticity, and there are different nuances to what we can learn. For languages, it looks like we can learn vocabulary, better than we can learn grammar.
I studied German for 3 years in high school and 1 year in college. When I was in the Army in Turkey, I also studied Turkish for one year. I used German more than Turkish there, because there were so many Turkish Guestworkers who traveled back and forth to Germany, so many Turks had some knowledge of German. However, German is not useful to me now. I've essentially forgotten 100% of the Turkish that I knew, and probably 90% of the German that I used to know.
I also studied beginning Spanish in college, 2 courses. I've attempted to learn Spanish off and on, on my own, since then. From what I've read, Spanish is one of the easiest languages for an English speaker to learn, due to easier grammar than German and some other languages, and many words similar to English. It would be useful, because there are several Spanish-speaking countries that I would like to visit, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Spain.
I was wondering if others here know more than their native language, what you do to keep up, and whether anyone has tried to learn on their own. I know Chris is a native speaker of Dutch, and has English skills like a native.
For starters, I dug up some conversational Spanish CDs and audios for my Iphone. I can play those when walking, which is about an hour a day, and when driving. I have whatever it is that they have labeled "Level 1" and "Level 2". I have Pimsleur Spanish lessons, but those are expensive to extend to higher levels. I don't want something analytic "These are the grammar rules. These are the verb conjugations" but rather, conversational learning.
I also decided to try the same with Mandarin, with much less expectation of being able to say much and none of being able to read / write Mandarin. So I have some audio for beginning conversational Mandarin as well.
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Interesting topic, Daniel. Glad you brought it up. I, too, love reading about science and history ( I taught both). In fact, after I read about the Medici's of Florence Italy last month, I thought I'd like to go visit the city. And guess what? I will actually be going there and surrounding Tuscany in April! I just signed up with a group called Road Scholars. They have many wonderful sounding trips. Perhaps it'll be a good reason to learn Italian--or Latin. The latter was still taught in my high school (which I didn't take).
Daniel, how are you doing with your Spanish? and Mandarin? For me, a foreign language meant the foods and seasonings from the areas. I have my Mediterranean menus, Mexican, Philippine, Hungarian, Asian, and African, menus as well as Scandinavia and Central America. I try to learn about the culture and farming techniques as I learn the words for "kitchen," "garden," etc.
There is nothing like going to the country of interest to me and learning all I can in a short visit. In China, I had two deep fried eggs almost every morning. I guess my hosts thought is what an American would eat. I had peanuts, fresh, cooked, fried, and boiled for just about every meal.
Do you have some stories to tell about food you had in China?