Friday, January 11, 2008

How to speak 12 languages in 12 days

My good friend Laura called from Bucharest, Romania yesterday. Her name is pronounced something like Laugh ruh - like a Southerner would say it but not exactly. Her timing was great because Sarah was busy researching Nadia Comaneci for a school project and we were discussing communism (don't get me started) and the abusive regime of Nicolae Ceausescu.

Laura is another one of my truly brain gifted friends. She fluently speaks five languages and has a smattering of others she can speak better than I speak Spanish. To give you an idea what that means, I have attempted to "study" Spanish for at least 5 years, plus high school, and when I try to hold a conversation longer than "turn right at the corner," people still smile politely at me or just look confused or do that Dominican nose wrinkle thing that means they have no idea what I just said.

Laura's five majors languages are: Romanian, English, Spanish, German and French. Minors include Russian, Turkish, Italian, Hindi and Gypsy (which is probably called something else, anyone know? Roma, maybe?).

Here is how she learns a language. I witnessed this when we went camping together in Italy, so I'm not making it up. Hour one, plane lands. Laura looks at the airport signs and deduces what they say so we can find our way to the rental car. Hour two, she then says hi to some people in the new language. They assume she can speak their language and she learns the basic small talk in about 15 minutes. Hour three, we are hopelessly lost in Rome. We stop the car, she jumps out and asks directions and then laughs and talks with the guy in fluent Italian.

Language aquisition, accomplished.