EV-9D9: “How many languages do you speak?”
C-3PO: “I am fluent in over six million forms of communication, and can readily…”
EV-9D9: “Splendid! We have been without an interpreter since our master got angry with our last protocol droid and disintegrated him.”
Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi
Well, let’s be honest. I speak one language, English, and a smattering of Dutch. I can get around a menu, buy some groceries, read a short kids’ book, and be polite, but really speak Dutch… Nah, not so much. I’ve been at this in fits and starts for (shamefully) decades now and have pulled out all the excuses you can imagine: too little time, raising a family, working, no one nearby to speak with anymore, we’ve (not so recently) moved, the damn cat puked on the carpet again, there’s something good on Netflix, I started that new engineering-related website, the usual.
I have, however, recently acquired a commitment from Red Leader in a game of chance to move to Belgium for 3 months (the maximum stay allowed) after Padawan Learner and Wedge Antilles graduate from high school and are off on their own, making their way in the world. Gosh darn it, we’ve earned ourselves a little R&R – a little learning-for-me time – a chance to work towards something lovely and interesting and important for reasons that have nothing to do with college applications, ACT/SAT scores, core competencies, getting child X to activity Y in under Z minutes, or anything so wholly unrelated to us (to mis-quote the brilliant Elizabeth Bennet).
Since Belgium has two national languages (French – her target language) and Flemish (a dialect of Dutch – mine), sits between France and the Netherlands, and is an easy train trip into either language region, it will be ideal for our purposes. She will be able to rely on me in the Dutch-speaking regions and I on her in the French-speaking areas. While we will, of course, visit all the main tourist spots (hello again, Paris and Amsterdam) where English could be spoken if we wanted to – BUT WE WILL NOT WANT TO – learning our target languages well will allow us to visit and enjoy the non-touristy spots that are so often bypassed due to the language barrier.
Because of this travel plan and language-learning need, I am going to be using some of this space for a bit of recording keeping and public accountability. Please feel free to give me grief is I don’t update my progress regularly. I apologize in advance if you just don’t give a hoot about this goal, because you’re going to hear a lot about it.