I recently moved to a new neighborhood and where as my previous house was situated on a small street I now live in a much more multicultural area. My next door neighbors are from Portugal and while the husband speaks a little amount of English, his wife is unfortunately unable to use the language apart from a few words here or there. Obviously this has made communication a little difficult but we have still managed to build up a small friendship and neighborly relationship. Using her husband as a translator the lady has baked cookies for my daughters, as well as other cakes and desserts and she has also kindly given us fruits and vegetable which she grows in her garden. This really spurred me on to try and learn a little of her language to make communicating with her a little easier so I started researching the best ways to do this.
The first thing I did was to search for language applications on my smart phone, there was no end of choice and I had to search through many different reviews to find the one which I thought would be the best. There are many free apps available however they usually only show the very basics of your chosen language and you will have to pay to unlock the rest of the course. There are even some apps which will enable you to dictate what you want to say and it will immediately translate it for you and speak it in a human voice.
More words and phrases have been packed into the new generation of apps, which can translate even complicated sentences saddled with one or more dependent clauses.
Once I had downloaded the app and enabled myself to be able to communicate with my neighbor, I sat down with my card making kit and made a lovely handmade card in all written in Portuguese, thanking her for the lovely cookies she had made and wishing her well. She was so unbelievably shocked and delighted that I had taken the time to do this for her that she made us a lovely Portuguese dessert for us to eat and it was clear this gesture had spurred her on to learn a little more about the English language also.
Having this need to communicate with someone in a different language really helped me to become more interested in learning and when we are interested we learn more. I now have regular meetings with my neighbors during which we pass words back and forth, I will try and say something in her language and she in mine. We are both learning something different but learning together has proved to be very helpful for us both. I now feel confident enough to greet and exchange a few words with other members of her family and social group and it is my hope one day that we will be able to get together over a cup of coffee or something. A similar method to this is currently being employed in schools across America.
In the last ten years, hundreds of American schools have begun to offer a new way to teach foreign languages. This method is called dual or two-way immersion.
Taking the time and effort to do a little research and learn to communicate with my neighbor has ensured that we all live harmoniously together, if I have any problems I can approach her and vice versa. As I become more confident in approaching new languages I may find myself branching out into communication with my Polish neighbors who live a few doors away…… Like I said, Multicultural neighborhood!