Column: Joys of learning a language

Carol Forster loves learning new languages
Carol Forster loves learning new languages

I wonder if you recall language lessons at school back in the 1960s and 1970s?

My primary school was part of an experiment which saw us learning rudimentary French before high school.

I remember being more fascinated by the strange winged spectacles of my teacher than the vocabulary although I did enjoy her lessons.

By the time I reached high school we had a very theatrical teacher who instilled in us a love of learning languages.

Each week we would talk of 'La Famille Bertillon' and I think my lessonname was Sandrine...

I also got a pen pal called Marie-Claire who I exchanged very polite, grammatically correct letters with about the things our vocabulary would stretch to, so mainly the weather and family stuff!

I remember that 'La Famille Bertillon' spent a whole lot of time having their breakfast and evening meal, while the children talked mainly of school.

Then came Spanish lessons.

My teacher was a real character who drew scenarios on the board in white chalk which made us giggle relentlessly.

This, along with the obligatory tape, which seemed on a loop of ‘Lo siento Mama!’ for some reason!

Those early formative experiences gave me the bug so I later tried a year of modern Greek which was utterly mind boggling then, of course, Italian.

This eventually led to me doing a degree in Italian.

At university, we also did a few months of German and I recall listening to audio tapes with my Austrian teacher interjecting our feeble responses with the odd ‘Nein!’

I also recall how hopeless a class we were in our conversation lessons. Giving directions to the station was hilarious as we’ would invariably head someone to the swimming pool instead. How we laughed!

As you get older, it becomes harder to remember the vocab, being considerably slower in the uptake, but perhaps the experiment did work as I always enjoyed learning other languages, as did my fellow pupils.

Sadly, it is more fun when you can easily get to the place you are studying, which may be compromised in the future.

But I still say, long live language learning!