I never studied Greek, but I meant to. When I was 19, I had a plan. A list of 10 languages and how many years I was going to spend studying and becoming fluent in each to be the ultimate polyglot powerhouse. It was a motley collection of languages from all continents. Norwegian, Swahili, Vietnamese. They were all on the list, as was Greek.

In reality, I took 5 years of Spanish in grade school but only placed into Spanish 102 in college and ended up walking out in the middle of a Spanish class a year later (never to return) because I just couldn’t understand the subjunctive and didn’t see the point.

Shortly after, I realized the error of my ways, and also discovered that it’s a lot easier to learn foreign languages through immersion. Television and print ads are really the best because you get the context through visuals, which makes it pretty easy to work out the meaning of words. So, I spent six years living out of the country. This is a huge generalization, but in my experience, Americans think that when you say you can speak a foreign language, you can can hold lengthy conversations on politics, philosophy, science, and religion in the language. And understand all the nuances in dense novels written in the language and write theses and business plans in the language. The European friends I’ve made over my life seem to have a more realistic view. They don’t hesitate to say they speak a language if they can get by in normal daily interactions, regardless of errors. I prefer this view. I can actually get by just fine in Spanish, French, Russian, and German. Well, maybe not German anymore.

However, I’m still pretty far off from my teenage goal. I’ve learned alphabets and greetings and words for food and other essentials in Hindi, Punjabi, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, and Icelandic just because I didn’t want to be “that American” when travelling. I won’t say my efforts were in vain, but I certainly don’t know a single word in any of those languages right now.

By the way, have you ever heard Icelanders speak English? It’s the most beautiful thing. Like birds chirping. Their mastery of English vocabulary and grammar surpasses that of many Americans, and yet sometimes, it’s just birds chirping. And it’s endearing. I should be so lucky to be adorable speaking their language in return instead of a stuttering, tongue-tied mess!

Ευχαριστώ για την ανάγνωση! (I think that says “Thanks for reading!” but I think we all know that auto-translation tools are notorious for making ridiculous errors, so if I just told you to “Chew the ear off a pig,” my apologies).


What else are people writing in the A to Z Blog Challenge? Check out today’s featured blog, sponsored by the letter A: Anna Karras. Anyone whose husband describes her as “a reading fool” is writing a blog I’m undoubtedly interested in. Check out her Things Found in Library Books posts.

8 thoughts on “Alpha

  1. Lovely – I REALLY wish I’d been good at languages. But I was not. My mum spoke French fluently, my brother speaks German, brilliant at Latin, but I was no good at learning them… well, learned French from 4 years old so do know vocal, but… still, I’m very good at English! ~Liz A-Z


      1. Tried to comment earlier, but my comment (which was absurdly lengthy, I’ll admit) disappeared. Once a few years ago on a friend’s WordPress blog, my comments suddenly began being marked as spam for some reason. Not sure if that might have happened here. Sorry to put this in a reply on an existing comment, but didn’t see any other way to contact you. The gist of my comment was that I both enjoyed and somewhat identified with your post. Nice to “meet” another A-Z challenger! 🙂


  2. Good for you for trying, anyway, Jennifer. You’ve been more successful in your language learning attempts than many. I have a fascination for languages that outstrips my ability. I know a few languages for academic purposes, but despite six years of French in school, I’m still not fluent. Something to work on sometime. 🙂


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