I have had a long and turbulent affair with trying to learn a second language.
When I was in elementary school French class was a required part of the curriculum. By the time I left elementary school I could say the basics and in junior high I dropped it to pursue other interests. My parents moved from Canada to the United States when I was in high school and when I decided to study a language I made the decision to study Spanish--I figured that my father (who was fluent) could help me with my homework. The only thing I learned from high school Spanish was the Pledge of Allegiance. It's a fun skill to pull out at parties--but not very useful for any real communication. In college I started taking French three times, only to ultimately drop the class because I felt too overwhelmed.
I have bought audio courses, books, taken community development classes and in the end I haven't been able to say more than Hi, Thank You, Good bye, and Do you speak English?
Three weeks ago I was working late and stumbled across a little internet ad proclaiming that you could learn a language in 10 days. I was highly doubtful, but decided to watch their infomercial. The ad was fascinating and for a very low price I decided to give the study of French another shot. I have considered courses like Rosetta Stone--but have been put off by the large price tag.
For the past two weeks I have been using the Pimsleur Method and learning French. This is the first time I actually think that I might be picking something up. I impressed my students with my new found linguistic abilities after Spring Break and they started to complain to their French teacher that I knew more than they did after only four lessons.
I can confidently (and with a reasonably good accent) tell someone how much I do and do not comprehend French, ask for directions, greet them, and order food. In fact, as I was wondering around the grocery store I kept repeating the phrases and practicing my accent. The lessons are short (30 minutes each) and they are extremely easy to follow. I love that each lesson slowly integrates new vocabulary and phrasing, while still reviewing previously learned words. After I learn more I will record an audio podcast to demonstrate my skills.
Of course, all good things come with a price tag. The Pimsleur Method is initially inexpensive--to purchase the introductory course; however, their Level 1 course is about the same price as Rosetta stone. Given the speed at which I am learning French I think I might have to break down and purchase the full course.
I am fortunate that the French teacher is just down the hall from my classroom and one of my dearest friends at school is a native French speaker so now I don't have any excuse not to practice what I have learned.
Do you speak a language? How difficult was it for you to learn?