Globetrotting in my Backyard

All my life I’ve wanted to become conversant in another language. Finally, at the age of 58, I’m about to jump in headfirst and see what happens. This is not the first time I’ve attempted to go outside the barriers of my native English. I was fortunate to be a navy brat. My father’s profession allowed me to grow up while traveling the world. My early years were spent in Copenhagen, where both of my younger sisters were born. We were lucky to live in civilian housing in the community, and I was able to play and otherwise experience life feeling very Danish.

During those years I became proof positive of children’s ability to easily learn new languages. My parents, although trying to learn what they could of the Danish language, found themselves relying on me as their official interpreter. I learned English in my home and Danish from friends. That experience taught me one other thing: if you don’ t use it, you can lose it. We left Denmark when I was seven. My parents tell me that on the boat going back to the good old United States, I announced that since we were leaving Denmark I’d only be speaking English from that point forward. I never used Danish again and remember only a few words of it now.

Our return to the United States was short lived. We were soon on our way to Cuba, where I lived until I was 13. Those were intense, eventful years that included missile crisis of October 1962. Although we were limited to the naval base during those years, I did have contact with some of the Cubans who were allowed to work on the base, and I appreciated that there was another culture outside my door. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to experience it fully, and it remained apart from our daily life. The Cuban culture did give me a desire to learn more about the early Spanish influences in the New World that are so often glossed over in our US-history textbooks. That inquiry would wait.

My next big move was to Hawaii. Finally, I was growing up in the United States—just not the main 48. Living in Hawaii was certainly not a problem. I don’t think there’s a teenager in our country who wouldn’t enjoy going to junior high and high school in a place where you can catch some surfing after school and play on the beaches all weekend. I was in the United States, but with a distinct Polynesian and Asian flavor.

The globe-trotting ended when Dad retired and we moved to Central Florida. It wasn’t long before I headed off on my own to our nation’s capital. I did some great things while in Washington, DC. I worked at the World Bank and had visions of more globe-trotting in my future. That was not to be. A better option came along. I found myself one Saturday morning at a local self-service laundry doing what people do in those places—waiting for clothes to dry. During one of those drying cycles I was approached by a young law student. There’s no need to go into details, but that young man became my husband, we moved to Florida, and I’ve now stayed in one place for 35 years. It’s been a wonderful adventure, just not the globe-trotting one I once dreamed about.

debbie2Our son is now grown, retirement doesn’t look so far off, and frequent travel might be something I get to do again. First, however, I want to truly live in and experience my own backyard. We live in an area that’s on the edge of the Caribbean, rich with the ethnic diversity that comes from being a hub of international travel. It’s about time I learned the language of my neighbors so I can truly appreciate the unique cultures of my community.

My husband and I will be vacationing in Buenos Aires in the next month, and we’ve decided to use that as an incentive to begin learning Spanish, the second language of South Florida and the primary language of much of the Americas. Rosetta Stone seems to offer the natural way to begin this process. I once learned Danish by living it. I hope Rosetta Stone will help me do the same with Spanish.

The program has arrived and it’s time to open it and begin. Let’s see where this language will take me.

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