I was an odd kid in some ways. I moved a lot with my military parents, and I was quite shy. So when I was “the new kid” in school, in that time before I made new friends (these things take time!) I was reading, studying, and learning new things. I was deeply interested in many things: tigers, deep space, King Arthur stories, lots of things. I decided at one point though, that I wanted to learn languages.
I started with French. This was in the sixth grade, when they let us try each language class offered in school for one quarter, so that we could choose to start one in our seventh grade year. I was good at French. I loved to conjugate verbs and have the mini conversations you do when you’re just starting. I thought I was so cool.
I remained in French class through part of high school. Eventually, I had to choose between choir, drama, and French classes for my electives. It was tough. I tried to see about continuing French while in college, but my major (music theatre) was sometimes like being a triple major. I didn’t have extra time in my schedule. Le sigh…
But back to my 13-year-old self. I mentioned my King Arthur fascination, yes? I came across many good books of the myths and legends and I read all I could. I came across the Mabinogion, medieval Welsh texts, some of which tell of King Arthur. Being the precocious youngster that I was, I decided after reading them, that I should learn to speak Welsh. Of course.
Why not learn to speak a Celtic language that relatively few people still use today? (People don’t bat an eye when you want to learn French. They look at you with some incredulity if you want to learn Welsh out of the blue though.) I wanted to be that girl, that could do something none of her friends could. I wanted to read the Mabinogion in its native language.
So. I found a book. I studied. I did not get far. This was before YouTube. I didn’t have Rosetta Stone. I was using my knowledge of studying French to help me learn Welsh. By myself. From a book. It wasn’t like I was all that proficient at French either. In the end, I abandoned my study to do fun, kid things, like play in the sand at my Grandpa’s beach. I still remember how to pronounce their alphabet. Places like Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch aren’t so bad when you know their alphabet is different from ours.
I’m an adult now though. I have been in one choir or another since I was in the third grade and I’ve learned to sing in many languages in my time. I especially love to sing in Italian. I can pronounce all the words, but I can’t form my own thoughts. I studied voice in college and as such, learned to sing in French and English as well. Singing classically in your own language still requires study, yes. I made a deal with my voice teacher that she wouldn’t make me sing in German if I agreed to sing any other language. I was a music theatre major, so I was allowed to do this. (If I was voice performance major, they’d have told me to suck it up, probably in German.) I just never grasped singing in German. My voice is better suited to Italian.
I have a passion for words though. I like to find out where they came from, how they’re related to other words, how their meaning changes over the years… I love words and languages. I have a list of languages I’d like to learn. It is an extensive list, if I do say so myself.
Gaelic (Scotch and Irish)
I’d like a million dollars and a really good teacher. I’d like to be a linguist. One day, I think I will be.