Are You Too Old to Learn a Foreign Language like Spanish?

learn a foreign language

Imagine viewing the Park Guel in Barcelona after taking time to learn a foreign language like Spanish.

Just when you think can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The seller of a home I sold in Land Park a few years ago over on Marty Way had hung signs in French all over her house to teach her children a foreign language. Porte is door. Le bureau is table. I’m thinking about doing that in our home to help me learn Spanish and hope the cats don’t shred my efforts. They like to tear up foreign pieces of  paper taped to objects. I know I often repeat I have no regrets in life, but I do regret that I did not learn a foreign language like Spanish. I started to take Spanish in 10th grade and then wanderlust struck and, well, it was the 1960s, so I left school and hitchhiked to California.

I learned a few words in Spanish after building a home a few decades back in San Felipe. Mostly small words and phrases to interact with the construction crew. Por supuesto (of course), I could not communicate when they spoke back. No entiendo (understand). Demasiado rápido (too fast). That made me think I could not learn to speak Spanish. Aquí, aquí, I would say, and point to  the location where I wanted an object moved. The truth is the construction workers spoke more English than I spoke Spanish. That would have been a good time to learn a foreign language like Spanish but I dropped the notion once back in Newport Beach, home of that hugely successful paperback impulse item hawked at high-end grocery stores: How to Speak Spanish to Your Maid.

It’s not just because we are traveling to Spain this fall, but European travel is a big reason for me to try to learn Castilian Spanish. I don’t expect everybody to speak English to me. I want to connect on a local level. I’m turning 64 in a few months, and I already struggle with those vanishing nouns. Too much stuff in my brain, too many boxes to move around to find the precise noun at the exact moment I need it, but I suspect everybody struggles with that, and it’s kinda irritating. Still, after only a few weeks, I am beginning to understand a bit of Spanish. It’s exciting! Can I learn to speak Spanish online in 6 months? We’ll find out. It’s definitely worth trying. I’m taking a course that teaches students to read, speak, write and recognize. I devote 30 minutes or so every day to study.

Another reason I’ve decided it would be a big benefit to learn Spanish is because I had experienced that horrifying feeling as I stood in the lobby of the Hotel Capri in Havana our last night there, connected to the Four Seasons App to confirm our reservation in Miami when my cellphone suddenly stopped processing and delivered a message in Spanish. It was horrifying for several reasons. First, after our scaled-back, bare-knuckled accommodations in Cuba, I needed reassurance that a plush bed with a pillow top was waiting for me. Second, I felt completely helpless. I did not recognize a single word on my cell, and that message in Spanish was standing between me and our Four Seasons reservation.

And last, I’d like to converse with a native in her native language. It’s never too late, is it?

Everybody has that straw that broke the camel’s back, what a horrible expression, but we are all often motivated by different things. My dentist confided the last week that he never learned how to surf, nor how to play piano, nor a foreign language, implying that among his top three regrets of things he failed to accomplish in his younger years, he is too old now to learn a foreign language like Spanish. He’s the same age as me. Disculpe? (Excuse me?)

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