Friday, August 20, 2010

I'm not good at everything (I know you're shocked)

When I was at freshman orientation – 10 years ago just last month – I called home to talk to my mom. “All of the Spanish classes are full,” I moaned. “I think I’m going to take Italian.”

“Just wait and take Spanish next semester,” my mom (a college professor, but not in a foreign language) advised.

I didn’t listen.

I don’t know why I didn’t listen. I didn’t take Spanish during my senior year of high school. What could I have forgotten in those additional three months that I hadn’t forgotten in the previous 14 months?

I signed up for Italian instead.

I did okay in my Italian 101 class. I didn’t study as much as I should have. I didn’t engage myself in class. But I got through it, barely giving a thought to the fact that Italian was only the beginning. UM required that I take four semesters of a foreign language to graduate. Italian wasn’t going away after mid-December and I’m not sure that I grasped that.

Italian 102. I had this sweet instructor who seemed to genuinely like me, despite the fact that I was brutal. Awful. Absolutely pathetic. I went to every class but, still, I wasn’t getting it. I’m not sure that I studied enough, but I’m certain that I didn’t study in the right way. Right at the end of the semester, on the drop date, I dumped the class (at the advice of my instructor and my personal advisor/mom) and took the blemish on my transcripts. It was better than taking the F.

I went home from the summer in a bit of a panic about the language situation. I had to figure something out. I had to pass four semesters of a language or I couldn’t graduate. This wasn’t optional.

During the summer semester, I enrolled in Italian 101 at my mom’s college. (For free. Woohoo!) I did okay, but it didn’t move at the warp speed that my other Italian courses did. But it was so nice to practice.

(I never told my professor that I had already taken Italian at UM. How much of a turd am I?!)

But when I got back to school, and got back into Italian 102 again, I floundered. I just couldn’t get it. I couldn’t do it. And it SUCKED. For a student who never did anything but well, it was completely unnerving.

I talked to my instructor (the same one I had the previous winter). She knew that I was trying and, still, failing. She refered me to my advisor, telling me to ask about the test that I'd have to take to test out of language.

And when I say "test out," I really mean "prove myself so bad at learning language that I'm granted an out."

And I was. I took the ASVAB - Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery - and apparently I sucked hard enough to be granted the waiver. Instead, I was required to take four classes in one culture. That's how I ended up taking a lot of Russian literature.

I still wonder how much of that was because I'm really bad at learning languages and how much of it was because I didn't know how to properly study for a language or because I was just an overwhelmed college kid with too much on my plate.

At some point, I would like to try again. To see if, when it is the only subject I'm trying to learn, when I'm not pressured to get a certain grade or learn to a certain level, if I could do a little bit better.

And I'd like to prove to myself that I can do it.

2 comments:

Lauren said...

While we don't have language skills in common (I studied Spanish, German, and Russian in college), we have Russian literature in common!

If you want to learn a language, go abroad. It won't be about studying enough, it will be all about using it- every day, all the time. It makes a HUGE difference.

Unknown said...

It's so funny that you posted this, because my sister signed up for Italian this semester to fulfill her language requirement as an undergrad- she has no idea what's coming her way! Was that a UM requirement or just your major (I wasn't required to take any languages for a health degree, but my sister who is also at the same college is getting a degree in religion and has to take 2 semesters).

 
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