As students get ready to go back to high school in the fall, they’ll all have to meet the Board of Education’s time-honored requirement of studying two years of a foreign language. Different schools offer different options with regards to which languages they teach. The students will be trained to communicate to a foreigner “Where is Monica” or “Where is Peter going?” In case you are curious, he is going “To the lake.”
My high school offered three foreign language choices: French, Spanish or German. It seemed like everyone was taking Spanish. In a moment of adolescent clarity, and not wanting to be like everybody else, I determined that German was the language to choose. Just one of the many bright decisions I made during that time. My thinking was mainly based on a desire to visit Germany. While that makes little sense now, it did then and was obviously not the more practical decision so many of my peers made.
And so, thanks to my excellent public-school education, I now have two years of German under my belt. Most of it has been completely purged from my overtaxed memory. To further demonstrate my poor decision making in this regard, my one and only visit to Germany was a good twenty years after the classes ended. Consequently, the classes were not a lot of help and, truth be known, I didn’t like Germany all that much. The people were not as nice as I expected they would be. And the food, ach du lieber!
Eventually realizing that Spanish would’ve been the more practical choice, I’ve taken three adult education Spanish language classes spread out over the past many years. Even so, Spanish is still like a foreign language to me. Sure, I can order a beer, ask about a restroom and find out what time it is. Beyond that, I stumble to try to communicate. A friend of mine took the time to teach me all the naughty words. Not sure when that knowledge will ever come in handy and, yet, I find I’m able to remember them. The mind is a terrible thing to waste.
A lengthy visit to Japan gave me an opportunity to learn that language a bit. Surprisingly from an American’s standpoint, many of the Japanese, from the taxi drivers to store clerks, spoke English very well. In fact, most of the Japanese I met spoke English. And while they appreciated my efforts to communicate in Japanese, most welcomed the opportunity to practice their English on me. I was more than happy to oblige.
I give you this linguistic travelogue for a reason. We had planned a trip to Europe this summer. This was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Plus, in a gesture of international diplomacy and in the spirit of my giving up ever actually learning any foreign language, each country along the route was to be where some form of English is spoken. But now that trip has been taken away, another victim of the virus which shall not be named. Scheisse!
Johnny McNally is Grimes County’s Best Dressed Businessman advocating for Grimes County and writes a bi-weekly column for the Navasota Examiner.