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We live during a great time to learn foreign languages

March 9, 2014

Gentle reader, I am old. Really, really old. I remember a time when practicing a foreign language by listening to it being spoken was very difficult. You could go to your local bookstore and buy some cassette tapes, if your language was one of the few popular European ones that they made them for. Those were useful, but typically very limited. Beyond that, the options got tough.

You could, if you lived in a big city, sign up for classes in your chosen language, if it was popular. I lived in a little town far from civilization, so that was impossible. But even if you lived in Los Angeles, good luck finding a class on Yoruba, or Haitian patois.

As far as getting actual live action practice reading or listening to the language in a realistic setting, that was difficult too. If you lived in a big city, bookstores or newspaper stands would have a small selection of books and newspapers in foreign languages, if you were lucky and studying a very popular European language. Again, if you lived in podunk like me, forget about it. Television or movies were virtually impossible to find. You might be able to catch a foreign language movie in a theater if you were very attentive and lived in an artsy or large city.

Now, life is great. I am overwhelmed with effortless opportunities to study foreign languages. I ordered “La Grande Bellezza” on Amazon instant download and can watch it a thousand times if I want. I ordered a DVD from Amazon Italy on Italian history. They will ship it to my door. I can choose between Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone to learn pretty much any language I can dream of learning. (Farsi, any one?) Those programs have interactive listening components. I can surf the web for Italian language web sites, read books from Amazon in Italian, and watch Italian YouTube videos until I can’t stand it any more. And of course, I receive the Italian television channel RAI all day and all night. I can do all that while seated on my fat butt at home.

This is the best time in history to learn foreign languages.

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