I was reading an article (find it here) the other day about learning languages. Apparently (because everything is possible in the US), there is a government agency that ranks languages by ease to learn. The premise is that speakers of each language will find some harder and some easier to learn. Now, for anyone taking Arabic, no surprise, it is among the hardest to learn category for English speakers.
Also unsurprising for those of us tortured in high school Spanish and French, they are among the easiest to learn for English speakers. Maybe that’s why the Beans find French much easier than Arabic… At any rate, the article doesn’t just say X language is hard to learn, it explains why it is hard to learn. Oh, and for those like me who struggle with Arabic, maybe it’s time spent. To achieve proficiency requires 1.69 years and 2,200 class hours. ** Reader warning: slipping into Southernese** Now, I had me an Arabic class or two, but I ain’t had 2,200 hours worth! **End Southernese** Yikes! So, now I’ve got a reason for my language shortcomings ;). Interestingly, they don’t promise fluency, but rather proficiency. So maybe I’m farther along than I think. I’m not sure if I’m proficient as I have no idea what that actually means in this context.
One thing I found very interesting with the overwhelming focus on French in the region is the comparative usefulness of French versus Spanish (or even Portuguese). There are 67.8 million French speakers world-wide. There are 329 million Spanish speakers (that’s nearly 100 million more than speak Arabic). And they favor French? Really?! Honestly though, I’m rooting for Chinese to take hold in Jordan’s educational system. I know King’s Academy offers it, which is excellent. Imagine the triple threat Jordanians would be if they spoke English, Arabic, and Chinese. These are arguably the 3 hardest languages in the world. And they have 2 of them by a matter of expectation. Add in Chinese and who in the world could compete with that? **Note to self, check out Chinese lessons for the Beans (and no, Nee How Kai Lan doesn’t count).
In addition to the potential for good jobs in later life, there’s another HUGE benefit to being bilingual. Some friends passed along an article (found here) about how being bilingual can stave off Alzheimer’s symptoms. Apparently, although not originally researching bilingualism, they found that multiple languages stimulates more of the brain and keeps it active. This means the connections are better and, for those who would develop Alzheimer’s, you can get 5-6 YEARS of clearer thinking. Now THAT’S an ad for bilingualism.
On the down side, though, taking high school French (or Spanish) doesn’t provide the benefit. You have to continue using the language (yes I hear all of the exclamations of despair out there). But looking at the bright side, it gives us all one more reason to keep inflicting our grammatically painful Arabic on Jordan. So watch out Amman, MommaBean is keeping her senses sharp by injuring your ears! Ya 3ateek el 3aafyu!
Happy Speaking in Tongues!