Bem-vindo, Bienvenue, Bienvenidos, Welcome. These words in their respective languages all signal to the listener that the space that they are in is hospitable, that the speaker is greeting the listener in a positive manner. This is a common introduction I have heard during my time at Cal learning different languages. I knew I wanted to study another language that would not only be useful for me when I travel, but also in my career field.
So first, I decided that I would strengthen my Spanish knowledge and would learn Portuguese since there are already many similarities between the two. It was during the summer of 2020, however, that by curiosity I ended up taking an introduction to French class and that truly woke me up to the beauty and intensity of language learning. I was shown that it wasn’t as easy as learning the way to make a sentence and remembering words for “computer” – l’ordinateur – or “excellent female singer” – la chanteuse- (my French instructor had a very healthy adoration for Whitney Houston). Already having an understanding of a romance language did help me a bit when I first started to take French and Portuguese classes, but there was a limit as to how much my Spanish knowledge could help me. This is what I want to point out to you, even with past experience or understanding similar characteristics of a related language, learning a new language is hard. There’s no way to sugar coat it. It takes a lot of dedication and work and sometimes it feels like you just can’t grasp some concepts, but that is okay! The route to learning a language, especially in college, is rough and rugged and messy and incomplete. It is not always about remembering how to translate every word you can think of to the language you are learning, but more of understanding how to express your thoughts to someone else. When I first started my French and Portuguese adventures, my instructors immediately started to immerse us in the language by speaking to us in it. It was difficult and slow, but the more we began to learn about the language structure and learn words, we began to be able to make small steps in our individual journeys. You too can do this. No matter what level of any language you may be at, it takes practice and immersion to get the hang of it. My instructors also told me that it is not a linear path and my journey has proven that to me. There may be moments when it may feel difficult and like everything is getting harder, but that is still a part of your progress because after that it becomes much easier, until the next mountain you may need to climb. However, you should not force yourself to be perfect in every way when learning a language. Being fluent does not mean you know every little verb conjugation or every form of the subjunctive, it means being able to communicate with others who are a part of the language community.