10 Oct

What do you call someone who speaks 2 languages?

Sage & SelenaThat’s right… bilingual. OK, that was easy. Now that you’re warmed up and feeling confident, try this one.

What do you call someone who speaks 3 languages?

Yep… trilingual. It looks like that Latin class is finally paying off for you. Alrighty then… on to the million dollar question. For this one, I’m calling in the ‘big guns’… Regis, take it away.

Regis: What do you call someone who speaks a single language? Your choices are:”

A) Polyglot
B) Lingual
C) American
D) Singlelingual

< Loud, dramatic music plays >

Regis: “Would you like to phone a friend?” You answer YES because you know that I’m on the other end of the phone call and I’m writing this blog post so I know the answer.

And I tell you: Go with ‘C’… always go with ‘C’… more times than naught with multiple choice questions, the answer is ‘C’. You’ll almost always pass a test by just choosing ‘C’. PICK ‘C’!!!

CORRECT! Although unfortunately, there’s not a million bucks waiting for you… just a slow, confused chuckle (if you’re from the States), and a pseudo smile.

At least this is how I reacted when my friend, Gunter told me this joke. YES, THIS IS A JOKE! Albeit… a joke with some truth to it. Don’t all the best jokes have a smidgen of truth in them… or in many cases, 100% truth? As Captain Hook said in Stephen Spielberg’s Hook – a spinoff of the classic tale of Peter Pan – “Lie? Me? Never. The truth is far too much fun.”

BTW: you probably already know this, but JUST IN CASE you have not looked it up yet, a person who speaks a single language is called monolingual… not American, as Gunter told me.

Of course, Gunter was just having fun with me but you know what? His joke really made me think. There is truth in his words. In the U.S.A., we teach other languages to our children in school, however, we don’t really help them to become bilingual. In just one week of living in another country where Spanish is the primary language, I can already go to the market and read the labels, order a meal at Ponchos – our favorite Mexican restaurant in Nosara, tell our gardener to have a nice day, and a new acquaintance that it was nice to meet them.

Now… don’t get me wrong, I’m far from being bilingual. BUT, I’m hoping that within 6 months, I will be. I know my 9 year old daughter will be because she is attending a bilingual school in Nosara, Costa Rica.

According to an article I read on the e! Science News web site, people who can speak two languages are more adept at learning a new foreign language than their monolingual counterparts, according to research conducted at Northwestern University. AND… children who grow up with two languages wind up being better language learners later on.

According to this study, once you know a second language, other languages are easier to learn. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Americans at large could communicate more fluently – both at home and across the globe – in the native languages spoken by our friends and colleagues? After all, we live in a time where doing business or taking classes with someone on the other side of the globe is common. Just think about your kids playing games on the internet. More than likely, they are playing with kids from other countries… and probably communicating in English because those kids know more than one language. We are so FORTUNATE to have the opportunity to experience people from ALL over the world… learning about their cultures and countries. This is truly an amazing time… one that we should embrace.

For me, I feel very blessed and thankful that I can provide this kind of opportunity to my daughter – to live in another country where English is NOT the primary language – and experience another culture. As for my wife, Jodi and I… well… we’re kids at heart so I think we have a good chance at learning Spanish fairly quickly. Wish us luck!

Pura Vida

John

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