Guest Post: When Everything Good Is Also Beautiful

For the better part of 30 years, my head was firmly stuck in English. But when I moved to Italy three years ago, I also started my first genuine effort at picking up a second language. My barely remembered high school Spanish prepared me for some things about Italian, like the gendered nouns and overwhelming […]

You call that science?

Last week I invited readers to participate in a little experiment. I’d had what I thought might be a big idea: a possible correlation between rate of reading speed and facility with learning foreign languages. My younger son and I are slow in both categories. My older son and my wife are quick in both categories. I […]

Divided By Common Languages

I learned a lot of languages in my teens and 20s. I say “learned,” but don’t expect fluency. You shouldn’t try to have a very complicated conversation with me in any of them today. But there have been points in my life when I had dear friends with whom I only spoke Japanese or Norwegian. […]

In Their Own Words

Inspired by guest Veronique Greenwood‘s three-part series (part 1, part 2, part 3) about learning a foreign language, some of the contributors to LWON volunteered for a week’s worth of essays about their own encounters with the challenges of linguistics.   This week, we’ve been looking at what it’s like to learn a new language as an adult. Kids seem to pick up […]

Parle français? Read English? ¿Una palabra a la vez? Oy.

Inspired by guest Veronique Greenwood‘s three-part series (part 1, part 2, part 3) about learning a foreign language, some of the contributors to LWON volunteered for a week’s worth of essays about their own encounters with the challenges of linguistics. When my younger son was in high school, my wife and I realized we would need to hire a tutor for his French class. […]

All the Chinese You Need to Take a Shower

This is the third and final post in a series about learning a foreign language long past the age when it comes naturally (if you missed the earlier posts, you can find them here: part 1, part 2) .  Guest Veronique Greenwood begins at the pro level, with Chinese. On Monday evenings, I ride my bike into the […]

Shop Owner! Bring Me a Sheet of Table!

This is the second in a series of posts about learning a foreign language long past the age when it comes naturally (if you missed it, here is part 1 ).  Guest Veronique Greenwood begins at the pro level, with Chinese. A month into learning Mandarin, I notice that something has changed. When I am out riding my […]

Learning to Talk All Over Again

This is the first in a series of posts about learning a foreign language long past the age when it comes naturally.  Guest Veronique Greenwood begins at the pro level, with Chinese. I slide into a desk at the back of the dim classroom, and the Thai girl in front of me turns around. What’s your […]