Long-Haired Dictionary

February 13, 2013 at 3:47 pm

long-haired dictionary (n): a foreign girlfriend who will help you with your language learning.

A typical conversation may go something like this:

Man: Hi darling, how was your day at work?

Long-haired dictionary: It was terrible, I spilled tea on my favourite trousers and burned the top of my mouth eating pizza at lunch.

Man: And how do you say “roof of the mouth” in Spanish?

Long-haired dictionary: Techo de la boca. Do you even care that my mouth is full of blisters?

Man: Oh yes, lleno de ampollas, isn’t that how you say it?

Long-haired dictionary: No, it’s “llena” because boca is feminine…

Anecdotal evidence suggests that having a partner who speaks a foreign language is one of the most effective and enjoyable ways to learn.

A friend of SOTT recalls:

“I spent a year in Latin America with the vague wish to learn Spanish but no real action plan. I hadn’t booked a language course before leaving Britain and spent the first couple of months of my trip hanging around with other travellers and speaking English at the hostels. After around two months of pointing at things and desperately trying to recall my GCSE Spanish, I took action and signed up for some one-to-one Spanish lessons in Buenos Aires.”

“I made great progress in the classroom and put the hours into memorizing the verbs, but, once I was outside of the classroom, barely had any opportunities to practice in any depth. Ordering in restaurants and shops doesn’t count… that’s the kind of thing you could just as easily do with a phrasebook. I stumbled when I spoke and had difficulty keeping up with a conversation.The local people I met loved to practise their English with me and I was happy to oblige… you never get bored of being told how sexy the British accent is.”

“Everything changed when I started dating a local girl who couldn’t speak English. The first few dates were a little awkward I guess, but, ahem, love knows no boundaries and it was something new for both of us. In the next couple of months, my fluency developed at an incredible rate. When you have to speak a language first thing in the morning and last thing at night; when you have to express yourself in that language… that’s when real fluency comes. At the end of my time in Buenos Aires, I was dreaming in Spanish.”

If your partner speaks a foreign language but lives with you in an English-speaking country, you are likely to get some benefit to your language learning. If you live in a foreign country and meet a partner there, you are likely to see tremendous benefit to your language learning.

Remember, the language you start a relationship in will probably be the language that you speak throughout the relationship. Especially when deep emotions are involved, it is very difficult to switch.

Important note: Slip of the Tongue is not suggesting that you start a relationship with the sole intention of developing your language skills. Still, if the attraction is there…

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