Continuing the subject about the business of an accomplished Lady;
A lady should speak a foreign language.
During the 1800s this was understood to be the haute language of the time, French. Italian was also acceptable as many operas were sung in this tongue. Latin and Greek were old standbys and usually left to the men or the very serious and studious women. Young ladies of respectable families had language tutors, governesses, foreign nannies, as well as parents who had some knowledge of another language to teach their daughters. The foreign language was reinforced when a man, a couple, or a family went on the Grand Tour of Europe. The tour was quite standard and expected in the British, and to a lesser extent, American upper-crust. It was a trip that lasted from as little as six weeks to five years depending on the circumstance. The premise was to immerse oneself in the culture, experience the high art of locale, and take in the sites.
In today’s society monoglots are at a severe disadvantage in the global market. Pundits, educators, employers and the like are constantly warning American parents they can no longer hold on to the idea that everyone speaks or should speak English. However, the languages de jour are now Arabic, Chinese/Mandarin, and Spanish. It makes me wonder how many of you are polyglots? Or plan to raise your children as such?
I am a special circumstance. It is true I am bi-cultural; my mother is Mexican-American (and a linguist!). I am also severely hard of hearing. I was diagnosed at four years old and have worn hearing aids ever since. To my mother’s credit, she did try to teach my brother and I how to speak her native language. However, we were different enough and struggled with speech therapy for years. To be honest, we were bratty children within the home and refused to learn another language that included even more sounds we could not hear. By the time we were in high school it was just becoming fashionable to know another language. And so we tried.
I can read Spanish much better than I can understand it in spoken terms. I know a myriad of random phrases; however I cannot carry on a conversation with a native speaker. My accent is also off, which is to be expected from a person who is hard of hearing. Many of the quips I know are slang which is always good for a laugh, but I hunger for more. Until I set aside time to practice, I am content to shout “Arriba la raza!” in a crowd of my fellow Hispanics.