14 March 2017

I learnt few languages growing up in India. Most of them were from my neighboring states in the south. I can speak fluently in Kannada and Tamil (being my mother tongue); comprehend Malayalam and Telugu; read and write Hindi and read Sanskrit.

This was all learnt before 15years of age.

English, itself was hard for me as I sucked at grammar and general writing. I had to work at it by reading various novels from Sydney Sheldon, Arthur Hailey to Ayn Rand, as well as watching movies (which were hard to come by, if it werent for my uncle - Kumar Mama, who was working in Jeddah). I tried reading Far from the Madding Crowd and other classics, which I couldnt get through even the first few pages. I finally had to expedite both spoken and written english when I entered IIT Madras and then to USA. My journey to the English language is a post in itself…

After coming to states, I envied people who learnt and spoke other languages - from my under grad friends who picked up Chinese or Italian to my older friends who were teaching themselves Russian or Japanese. My mom was gifted learner and she could pick up Telugu or Hindi relatively easily, even when she was over 30. Nevertheless, I accepted the fact that I could never learn a new language if it werent needed (as in survival- Kannada or spoken at home - Tamil). There were times when I have been in NYC or Brooklyn or DC, when Cuban and Costa Rican ladies have come up to me asking for directions in Spanish. I had to sheepishly grin and say I look like one but dont speak it

After having kids and moving to Texas, it became apparent that Spanish was a good weapon to have and language learning was a skill we needed to inculcate in our kids. We encouraged language upon our children. My oldest picked up Spanish in high school, my middle son took 3 years of Latin and my youngest is learning German.

Then last year on a fine Saturday, I was on a bike date with my two younger sons, when my youngest and I made a pact/challenge to speak ONLY in Spanish during the week of Thanksgiving. This was fool hardy, as there was less than a month time and I was nowhere near my language prowess of my son. My middle son became a witness as he remained neutral due to his time being occupied by learning Russian (via Duolingo). Both of them encouraged me to start with Duo.

Then it began…

Although we couldnt do the week of spoken spanish in November, I kept at it making it just part of my day. I had 70+ day streak once, until work and life intervened. But I kept at it. Finally, I am declaring today that I am done with the first pass through the course.

It was not easy. I had to make time. I had to prioritize 15mts or so every day and remind myself to do it - even if it was 11:30 PM to get that lesson in before midnight. It became an obsession at first, then a chore and finally second nature.

I will be writing a detailed post of my journey very soon….