“He who teaches learns.”
Can an aging brain learn a new foreign language? Cocky and confident, I’m the guinea pig trying to prove that it’s possible to do just that.
My children either have learned or are learning Latin. My own background in foreign language is rather minimal; I took three years of high school German, the vast majority of which I’ve long since forgotten. But I do like challenges and like to think that I can do anything if I work at it, so, when my oldest child began high school Latin, I decided to study it along with him. Never mind that it had been over a quarter of a century since I last encountered a German grammar book. My reasoning was that since both Latin and German are inflected languages (meaning that the endings of words determine their use and meaning in a sentence, unlike the English language in which the position of words in a sentence determines their use) and I already had familiarity with German, it would be fairly easy to learn another inflected language.
With great zeal, I began working through the Latin text in the summer, doing much of the work by the pool. By the end of August I had made it through the first quarter (about 8 weeks) of first year high school Latin. Then the demands of the school year and my busy life took over and my studies came to a screeching halt. I set the Latin books aside intending to return to them ‘someday’.
Years passed. Other interests filled my free time and the Latin books sat gathering dust and making me feel guilty every time I came across them. Occasionally I moved them from one shelf to another, but the desire to open them was absent. My two older children finished high school and moved on to college, far surpassing their mother in knowledge of Latin. More time elapsed and over a year ago my oldest graduated from college.
At the beginning of this school year, I came face to face with a hard fact; if I wanted to learn Latin with one of my children, I had to do it this year. My youngest is in eighth grade and, because he’s a year ahead in his Latin work, he’s taking first year high school Latin. This is my last chance. The time is now. Would I rise to meet the challenge?
I’m giving it a try. The Latin books came off the shelves and AB and I have been working together for two months. We do a lot of work orally, taking turns as we do each exercise. So far I’ve held my own and kept up with him. I’ve been delighted to find that my aging brain has retained much of what I had already learned.
But the easy part is over. As of last week, we’ve covered all the material that I studied years ago. From now on, we’re going to learn new things I haven’t studied yet. Today I did the first written exercise since returning to Latin. I’m a bit rusty, but I got a 91%. Not bad, but AB is a bright kid, so I’ll have to buckle down to stay ahead of him. Wish me well!