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July 14, 2014



Great article Steve, and so true - you inspire me - btw love Duolingo

Jim Lynch

If I was to get interested in learning another language I guess the first step is choosing one to learn. What are some of the criteria leading to such a choice? Wanting to keep up with current events in that country? Read that country's literature? Travel to that country?
Any help here?


Thanks for this post. I needed it today. I relocated (with my husband) to Zurich, Switzerland in January and have been working on learning German since last September. (I have the added challenge of trying to learn "hoch Deutsch" in a land that speaks "Swiss German.")

I'm making progress but have grown impatient. Your post today reminds me that this is a marathon, rather than a sprint.

Thank you!

Lynn Thompson

You are such an inspiration! That is, your "Well Read Life" is. That which comes--by magic--into my computer every-however-often-it-is-emailed!

I doubt very seriously I will have 10 years to learn another language, for on my next birthday (in 10 days) I will be 84. A pretty healthy 84, mind you, but hey....it is what it is and, at 84, I am on the downward (slippery) slope!

So, since I don't have the luxury of time to happily wallow around in learning a 2nd language, I do have the luxury of the electronic world. (It is both propitious and lucky that I live in Silicon Valley--my neighbor on one side is an East Indian Google woman and, on the other side, a Danish man involved in a cloud start-up.)

Thus, inspired by your Well Read Life, I will download the Google Translator app onto my iPhone. Even though my Guatemalan gardener speaks very good English, he will be pleased when I can text him in Spanish!

Thank you once again for a wonderful Read!

Steve Leveen

Dear Jim,

Thanks for your question about how to choose your adopted language. It's a question many have, of course. You're on the right track about looking for connections to what you want to do. Learning your language can give you time rather than take time, if you find ways to do what you want to do anyway, and then do them in your adopted language. Learn with people you love or care about. Here's the thing: being a language student as an adult forces us to be vulnerable, like a child, and this is an attractive force to others who help us. Consequently, and somewhat ironically, we live more fully, with more intense engagement. For example, if you've always wanted to study opera, study it in Italian--the music, the articles, the books, the videos and movies, and find a way to speak about opera in Italian. Of course, take Italian courses, too, which will have far more meaning to you when you have the larger cause in your heart. Also, check out Paul Pimsleur's slim book, "How to Learn a Foreign Language." He discusses the merits of particular languages in terms of their difficulty for native English speakers. I hope this helps, and thanks again for your engagement. Steve

Casey Smith

I couldn't agree more! Learning Spanish has been a real-life long-game adventure. I've found that doing something I love in another language makes it even more enticing because it seems more familiar. For example, I love cooking and for the past six years have been cooking my way through Spanish language cookbooks and translating as I go. I can almost always remember those words I had to translate and I feel really connected to the culture that way. It's been so helpful for me that I actually founded a program in Austin harnessing this concept, called Cooking Up Cultures. I'm looking forward to reading more about your bilingual nation blog posts and books!

Steve Leveen

Hey, many thanks, Casey. I love what you're doing with cooking in Spanish. I'll check out Cooking Up Cultures, too. All best wishes, Steve

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