If you are looking to embrace the spirit of Valentine’s Day—adding beauty, culture and zest to your life—consider the gift of a Romance language. Learning French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese in an enjoyable way will help keep your memory sharp and make you feel excited over studying something truly useful.
Whether traveling abroad or trying to communicate within our multicultural neighborhood, improving your rusty high school language skills will help you enjoy your next trip—whether it’s across the pond or across Long Island to an ethnic restaurant.
If you find yourself rushing around, doing very little for yourself, you can learn about relaxed and passionate living from those who speak Romance languages. Sitting in a Paris restaurant a few years ago, I struck up a conversation with an elegant French woman in her mid 30s who was dining alone. Her joie de vivre was contagious. I asked her if she felt guilty treating herself to such a wonderful meal in the middle of the week and she just smiled. She couldn’t understand how American women denied themselves simple pleasurable experiences. This mother of three felt it was her duty to take time for herself, to nurture her interests and passions.
Unlike the way many of us were taught language in school, learning a second language today can be exciting—and the Internet has brought the world closer together. Here are five easy ways to get started.
Listen to music. You can find all types of songs on YouTube, along with the lyrics. Learning song lyrics is an excellent way to learn a new language, especially if you sing along.
Tech savvy? Many excellent computer-based learning programs, such as Rosetta Stone, are available at the library. You can converse with native speakers through their tutorials for extra practice.
Mingle with locals. As New Yorkers we’re lucky to be living near a truly polyglot city. Take a Metropolitan Museum of Art tour in French or Spanish and strike up a conversation with a native speaker while your tour guide escorts you through the exhibits. Visit restaurants with native speakers on staff, and order your meal in your Romance language.
Download podcasts on your iPhone or tablet. The Coffee Break series is particularly good and for a nominal fee, it’s worth purchasing the accompanying podcast notes. Listen to episodes while waiting on the carpool or grocery line.
Read for 10 minutes a day, every day. The key is to read what interests you. If you love fashion, pick up a magazine from the library in the language you’re studying and read an article or an interview. As a beginner, you can even read children’s books, but don’t look up every word, just the words that you see over and over again.
Have fun with your Romance language and Feliz San Valentín! Joyeuse Saint Valentin! Buon San Valentino! Feliz Dia dos Namorados! Regardless of how you say it, Happy Valentine’s Day!
Beth Lurie, a Great Neck resident for more than 25 years, is director of Lurie Language (www.lurielanguage.com).