Mar 18, 2013

The Polyglot's Quest?

Learning another language...For years and years, all throughout elementary school and most of high school, this concept was synonymous with "ya right", or "impossible" for myself and many others. Being Canadian and Ontarian and therefore having the worst quality of French lessons possible crammed down our throats since grade five (coloring, coloring, cutting and pasting...coloring), it is somewhat understandable that learning our second language has been daunting and unpleasant. Now, that is not to say I was the star student in my classes. I take my fair and all too large share of the blame for my horrid French capabilities and my poor acceptance of Canadian bilingualism. I was too lazy, too bored, and too confident that French would not ever help me and that I was justified in slacking. In short, I dropped French as of grade nine as most do, and have never looked back or spoken the language but on the rarest of occasions (like when I was in France and I dropped the odd bonjour. That still counts).

Then I went to Encounters with Canada, and needless to say the week changed my outlook on things, most significantly what it meant to be Canadian and how important it was to embrace our bilingual culture and history. Now, I will not go on to write an in depth blog post about how and why this change in me came to be. I met some wonderful Quebec folk, had some great discussions with their strong English skills and my watered down French, and finally had the realization that perhaps there was meaning in learning a second language. Poutine and other things helped me arrive to this conclusion and appreciation for French, but you understand my point.

And so it was thus that I was informed by my parents about the wonderful website Memrise, the program they are currently practicing Spanish on. From my understanding the website has been crafted with the psychology behind learning in mind, and through a series of written, oral, and visual prompts, learning is truly accelerated and easy...especially when compared to the classic classroom format of study. I have spent about an hour and a half on the program after switching from a program I did not like, and I enjoy it immensely and am learning quickly. Furthermore, while this isn't important to me, there is a "gardening" like aspect to the whole learning process, where vocabulary is first practiced, then harvested, and then watered again. I figure if people can become addicted to Farmville then becoming addicted to Memrise, which is actually beneficial, then it is is not a stretch.

Anyway, I simply wanted to write a post to shed some light on this great website I discovered and am enjoying. Although another thought struck my mind recently as I practiced my French one afternoon. Why stop at French? Why not make the learning of language a part of everyday life? Be it French, Spanish, Italian, German...Whatever. So long as we continue to expand our minds in all other areas of study, language too, should have its part. I think it is a goal that I will try to stick to!

Hopefully those who stumble across this post will find it of some interest or of some use. I highly suggest checking out Memrise for anyone trying to learn a language, especially if you have struggled in the past with alternative methods of study. I may post more in the future on language learning tools or tricks if I find them, and the Polyglot's Quest may become a blog category for itself! Thanks for reading!

- Tom


  1. Hey Tom! I'm so glad you're trying French! I want to learn Spanish as a third language. I took some class earlier this year, but the teacher's teaching method wasn't making me go anywhere. So I dropped out. Which sucks because I've always wanted to learn spanish. I just didn't like how I was taught. Memrise looks like a good website. I'll make sure to check it out and, I would love to see more post about French.

    1. Hey Marjorie! I really happy that you might try Memrise. I found it is much better than a normal classroom and it really makes you want to learn. I don't think I will be writing anything soon in French, but one day I will learn! But thanks to you and all the great Quebec people from the trip. You all spoke English so well that it really inspired to me try and learn our other language.