Hablo Espanol

You can't teach an old dog new tricks.....or can you?

I am working with a colleague on a study abroad trip to Costa Rica for graduate students in our IMC and MSL programs, specifically, but certainly other graduate programs if there is an interest.

I visited the country last year at this time and fell in love even though it was quite hot and humid. I am not fond of hot and humid. Oh but the food and the mojitos, yum!

Since I pivoted in my life I thought it would be interesting to learn Spanish. It's a language I would certainly use in Costa Rica and in a number of other places. One of my favorite people at St. Bonaventure is teaching 101 and I thought, what the heck? I asked her if I could audit the class.

Audit means I sit in the class, participate in class, do the homework, take the quizzes, take the tests - all without getting a grade.

Thank God I am not getting a grade! Yipes - is learning a language difficult (or dificil) when you are an old lady! I find myself studying in a way I haven't in years. Heck, I haven't been in school in ages - even with my masters and Ph.D. I am in a room with mostly freshmen. I don't think they know what to make of me.

One thing I will say is that I am not afraid to speak up. I used to be that student who would sit in the class and know the answer but be afraid to give it. I was shy (believe it or not). I didn't want to be wrong because I thought everyone was secretly laughing at me.

Now I know better. And by "know better" I mean know enough that no one is laughing at me. And if they are, I don't care. I realize people are just glad they weren't called on. Or are glad they didn't volunteer their answer. I also know that in order to succeed, I will need to be okay to fail once in awhile (infrequent failing would be my preference, of course).

I come to class prepared each day and not always correct each time. I offer my answers or ask if my answer is correct and move on. I haven't always been right. In fact, in one class I quite proudly announced that I was a clarinet. Now I know that I should say "toma el clarinete" instead of "soy es el clarinete."

I still struggle counting to 30, but I get there. And I can't always remember the correct adjective but I know what an adjective is and does (thank you, communication experience). I forget accent marks and then kick myself.

I hope the students in the class see what I am doing and remember it when they get to be my age. It is never too late to learn something new and you should never be afraid to try.

In fact, learning a new language could prevent Alzheimer's disease according to Dr. Brian Gold, a neuroscientist at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in Lexington, as reported by NPR. Granted, the study was based on people who've been bilingual much longer than I will have been, but I'll take the research.

I'll add this skill to my daily crosswords and other puzzles.

It is only the sixth week and it is 101. My hope is when I go to Costa Rica in August, I can immerse myself in the language with enough background that I return ready for the next challenge.