Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Treasure Island

Foreign language is as boundless as the sea and just as hard to drink.  Maybe there's some excitement in knowing that it's a bottomless project; no matter your level of mastery, there will always be something new to discover.*  The sheer breadth of material to cover, however, allows for unwise drift.  Every so often I'll look up and realize I'm rowing away from the group, following some interesting but little relevant current (with 'relevancy' here meaning 'on our final exam').  The others are indulgent, but I'm not supposed to wander too far from the flotilla.

This happened to me in second grade, too.  My school, in a fit of progressivism, allowed us free rein in choosing our studies.  I don't remember doing anything that year but reading contentedly in a corner, though probably we had meditation sessions and talked about our feelings.  My third grade teacher -- in a different district -- taught me with barely checked disdain how to sit in a desk, face the chalkboard, and head and number my papers.  There were workbooks; multiplication tables suddenly became of paramount importance.  It was bewildering.  Third grade bit hard.  (Mrs. Proudfoot, if you're out there, just know that I never liked you, either.)

It's the second grade-style planetary nature of language learning that motivates me, though whether this is due to my own lazy stubborness or to a more respectable curiosity-fueled sense of wonder, I'm unsure.  I would love these last few months to be a time of wonder, with language discovered in context, all of us peripatetically exploring the Arabic terrain instead of trudging down a path marked by grammar charts.  Too bad that "I don't know, Madam Ambassador; I saw a shiny thing the week we covered that topic" is probably not going to cut it when I get to post.


*I admit that I'm not finding this all that exciting just now