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Learning New Languages

In the United States (and in many other countries), we're learning, sometimes clumsily, to interact with newcomers. Will we be undermined or enhanced by their presence? Will we be gracious? gullible? careful? fearful? A consensus is emerging to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and help those who do wind up staying in the US to merge more effectively, if they're law-abiding and learn English. Life can be tough for immigrants; adjusting gets far easier when they learn the primary language of their new land. In fact, almost everyone can benefit from knowing more than one language. Possibly someday circumstances will cause us, too, to be immigrants, or at least travel abroad; it could be wise to prepare. In high school and college I took a bunch of courses in Latin and a few in French. Much of the French has faded from my mind, being handy mainly during 3 trips to Montreal -- once I played a minor role in organizing a psychology convention there (though I failed utterly, a few years later, in trying to help a French visitor interact with a bus driver in California). Latin does help me understand botanical terms and occasional unusual English words, and a few words in other "Romance Languages". However, I've come to the perhaps obvious conclusion that nowadays the two most useful languages for US folks to learn (after English) are Spanish and Chinese. Of course, Arabic, French, Russian, Japanese, German, Portuguese, Yiddish, Swahili, Hawaiian and several other languages would also be good to know, and I hope plenty of Americans learn those languages, but for now, for myself, I've decided it's practical to make an effort to learn Spanish and Chinese. Most of the non-English-speaking people I encounter come from countries to the south and speak Spanish, and I've occasionally traveled to Mexico, and will probably someday venture even deeper into Latin America, so I feel it's time to stroll into Espanol. And because there are over a billion Chinese (Mandarin) speakers in the world (more than English speakers), and because of my longtime interests in Chinese medicinal plants and acupuncture and in Chinese philosophy (especially Taoism and the I Ching), and because I fairly often meet people from China, I've decided that Chinese (Mandarin) would also be quite useful to know. And I've always been interested in foreign policy, in which these two languages (and Arabic and Russian) seem likely to be crucial in the future. So I've decided to mention here that I've bought some language-teaching CDs. After reading lots of reviews, I decided on these -- maybe you'd want to try them too (or suggest others, if you're far ahead of me in learning languages):

Beginner's Chinese has somewhat small print. A plus of that: it shrinks the book's size, so maybe it'd be reasonable to carry it abroad. Yong Ho coordinates the Chinese Program at the United Nations. His book (which comes with a pair of CDs) includes "Cultural Insights", and is one of the highest ranking language-teaching book/CD sets at Amazon. (Yong Ho's also created an intermediate level book/CD set.) "To know a second language is to grow a second soul." For Spanish I got

Learn in Your Car Spanish,
a 9-CD set with small booklets, all of which come in a compact carrying case, with a bonus book on CD. So now I just need to see if I can find sufficient time and mind to learn these languages. (Actually I bought two book/CD sets for Chinese and two for Spanish. The ones I've mentioned here seem, so far, to be the better ones.) Also I've gotten a 9 Language Tutor, in CD-ROM form (Win/Mac),

which offers an "immersion-style environment for fast learning, teaches the basics of 9 different languages, covers Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and Portuguese". Seems to be an efficient way of sampling all those lingos. Cheap too.

Aloha.... and Appyhay Ummersay!

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