Last week I began a series of posts to discuss reasons for learning the native tongue of one’s spouse in the case of bilingual marriages. I discussed some of the reasons that undertaking the task of learning may be very important. I talked about how children, family and friends may all be reasons for wanting to learn the native language of one’s spouse. But other people may not always be the catalyst for learning the new language. One may just have the desire to obtain an education and be enlightened. I even developed a certain empathy for my husband once I started to learn his native Spanish.
Education and Enlightenment
For someone who enjoys the challenges of learning, acquiring a new language can be a very stimulating task. I enjoyed that challenge. There are so many tools available to anyone wanting to learn a new language. When I decided to learn the language of my husband’s native Puerto Rico, I started with a CD series for the basic grammar. The CDs taught simple conversation Spanish, including greetings and basic sentence structure. I then moved to the Rosetta Stone computer application. Rosetta Stone teaches Spanish through associations between words and pictures. After these basics, I subscribed to Think Spanish a monthly magazine containing Spanish-written articles on Spanish-related culture and is accompanied by audio CDs containing verbal renditions of the magazine articles. It was very helpful to read the magazines along with the CD and eventually, I’d listen to just the CD version in my car on the drive into the office.
The best education that I could ever have received, however, was during my trips with my husband to visit family in Puerto Rico. Immersion into a Spanish-speaking environment is an invaluable learning tool. There, I was constantly exposed to conversation in Spanish and although I couldn’t pick up everything being said my brain was forced to sort through the chatter and make associations with words. Consistently, I’ve found that I always come away with more understanding of the language than I had when I first arrived.
In addition to education, learning a new language and a new culture almost necessarily brings enlightenment.
Empathy and Enlightenment
Part of my own enlightenment during the process of learning Spanish was the empathy that I developed for my husband. Suddenly I understood the formula behind all of the little grammatical errors that my husband would make in speaking English sometimes. They made sense to me now. For example:
- I understand now why he calls the ‘remote control’ the ‘control remote.’ It is because that is how it is translated literally from Spanish; and
- I understand now why he calls his nieces and nephews, collectively his ‘nephews.’ It is because, in Spanish, when grouping feminine and masculine subjects together, collectively they are referred to by the masculine designation.
Are there other reasons why learning your spouse’s native language is important?