foreign language immersion and links
The phone rang, and my stomach clenched when I heard her voice. “Daddy? I want to go home,” said my 8-year-old daughter, Arden. Two hours earlier, I dropped Arden and her two siblings off at their new school in a squat building in a forest of Soviet-era apartment blocks on Krasnoarmeyskaya (Red Army) Street in Moscow. They hugged me goodbye, clinging a little too long, and as I rode the metro to my office, I said a kind of silent prayer to myself that they would get through the day without falling apart.
Great read. My wife moved to America as a first-year college student, but her younger sister (much younger) was just starting kindergarten. She struggled to adapt but is today fully Americanized and fluent in English. In my case, I credit my brief immersion in German schools with my continued more-0r-less fluency in German (I am generally able to read and hear German without any trouble comprehending, although I do stutter speaking it). It’s a terrifying thing to land in a town where your host parents don’t speak English, your school is conducted entirely in German. It’s also an amazingly empowering feeling after a few weeks to realize that you are rapidly acquiring a huge vocabulary in a foreign language out of necessity. I’ve always said that one of the most astonishing mental events in my life was the first night I dreamed in German. Not in translation – the dream was in a foreign language, and it felt natural. I’ve seldom dreamed in Russian – unfortunately I learned it later in life so I’ve always felt it’s an “artificial” language for me – but German still feels like it’s burned in my head. It’s a worthless language – almost every German person I’ve met speaks English better than I speak German – but I’m glad I know it, because it was a useful intellectual effort and because it made me understand and appreciate German culture.
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