Having taken, and immediately thereafter, forgotten, three years of Spanish lessons in high school, I realize that I neglected an opportunity to learn another language. At the time, however, I was "forced" to take a language and therefore resented and rebelled against it.
Now, many years out of college, I have this growing feeling that I should learn a language other than English. This feel is only intensified the more I learn about history and philosophy. There are subtleties and distinct meanings that do not perfectly fit into another language. Essentially, there is something lost in translation.
For example, to be able to read Democracy in America in its native tongue would be wonderful, and I have no doubt that I would gain a more complete understanding of de Tocqueville's masterpiece. I have the copy of Liberty Fund's edition that has the French and English side by side. It's a goal of mine to read it all through in French.
Apparently, it is much harder for an adult to learn a language than it is for a child, the child not having the baggage of a preexisting language structure and set of rules to follow. However, despite the challenges, I have to imagine that learning a new language would truly widen my understanding of the world and increase my ability to think.
My question to you, dear Ricochet, is two fold.
- Which language to I choose?
- What is the best way to learn said language?
A few languages jump out at me.
Spanish: This would be very helpful and useful on a more regular basis. I also have a -- very limited -- understanding of the language. Spanish can be a beautiful language, but it also seems very....common?
French: Quite possibly one of the most beautiful languages, French seems like it would be a very "cultured" (there is simply no way to say that without sounding like a high-brow snob) language. There are many wonderful books of philosophy written in French. I would very much like to be able to go on a political rant in French some day.
Being able to read de Tocqueville, Voltaire, and other French writers in their own tongue would be a great thing indeed.
Not as popular as Spanish -- at least in America -- but still widely spoken.
Latin/Greek: The father of all western languages and civilization. With an understanding of Greek or Latin, I could read the most ancient philosophers in their own tongue. From an intellectual point of view, I imagine that this would be a fine feat indeed.
Sadly, both are "dead" languages and I don't think I'd find much practical use.
German/Russian: Both languages offer their share of genius in the form of a Kant or a Tolstoy, but neither language holds quite the appeal as French to me. Still, either would be wonderful to master.
Now, after I choose a language, what is the best way to learn?
Do I take a class at a local college? This didn't work too well for me in high school, but now I actually want to learn. Having the face to face interaction and daily practice would be very helpful, but it would probably be more expensive and I don't know if it would fit my schedule very well.
Rosetta Stone offers a seemingly good option. Everything I hear makes it seem like a good option, but it is also expensive.
What do you say, Ricochet? Which language would you recommend and how would you suggest I go about learning it?