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28 Aug

LANGUAGE LEARNING MYTH #1: I’m too old to learn a new language.

FALSE. There is a common assumption that children are better at learning languages than adults. They might be better at picking up pronunciation, but otherwise, adults have many advantages over kids. Adults already have pre-existing language knowledge. Adults understand how conjugation works, what an adjective does, etc. Meanwhile, children struggle with many aspects of language. For example, they have a hard time with irregular verbs (e.g., saying “runned” instead of “ran”). Additionally, babies take years before they can even utter a word. An adult? Well, you can learn how to say a few basic phrases in a day!

LANGUAGE LEARNING MYTH #2: I don’t have an innate talent for languages, so I can’t learn.

FALSE. Everyone is capable of learning a language. While it’s true that some people pick up on certain aspects of language more quickly, those same people can also peter out when they reach an intermediate level (trust me, I’ve been there before). Everyone has different strengths, but it is not talent that makes them fluent. It is regular practice and determination.

LANGUAGE LEARNING MYTH #3: I need to spend money on materials and on travel to learn a language.

FALSE. You can obtain a various amount of language learning resources from the library FOR FREE. In addition to language learning materials on our shelves, the library offers free access to software programs that normally would require payment, such as Rosetta Stone and Mango Languages. The Hoboken Public Library and Friends of the Library also provides free ESL practice every month, which will be starting a new series of classes in September. Language learners can also benefit from free access to video lessons on Universal Class and movies in several languages and language lessons from The Great Courses on Kanopy. If you’ve got your Hoboken Resident Library Card, you don’t even need to leave the house! And travel? Sure, immersion can be useful, but it doesn’t always work. There are a lot of factors that go into making full immersion a successful method, and as I’ve mentioned before, it is possible to become fluent without moving to a country (or locale) where a certain language is spoken. The most important thing is PRACTICE, and that practice must be applied to the four language skills: reading, writing, speaking, listening. If you consistently practice all of these skills, then you will achieve your goals.

Before you begin your language journey, make sure you have a goal in mind. This is of the utmost importance. “I want to be fluent” is not a good enough goal. It is vague and will not motivate you when you eventually reach a rough patch. What does fluent even truly mean? (We can save that conversation for another day…) What you want is a more specific goal, and remember, you can add another goal once you achieve the first. It is entirely fine to have short-term goals. Good examples of language learning goals are: “I want to be able to have small talk with my friend” or “I want to be able to read X book.”  These are specific and realistic goals that will help you keep focused and stay on track.

In my next post, I’ll provide you with a walkthrough of a software program you can have free access to through the library: Mango Languages. In the meantime, why don’t you check out the library’s many resources and choose a language to study?

Written by:
Samantha Evaristo
Hoboken Library Outreach Assistant

Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky

11 Jul

Deaf Republic
In school, we learned about history’s atrocities and I’m sure I’m not the only child who thought, “Why didn’t people do more? Why didn’t they stand up and fight?” As an adult, it has become clear that things are not always so simple.

All around the world, there are wars, there are atrocities being committed, but yet…people go on with their daily lives. And if the horror is not visible, if it is not directly affecting someone, then most people tend to shove it to the back of their minds. It’s normal, no one likes to feel disquieted and uncomfortable. But is our silence just? That’s another story…

Ilya Kaminsky’s “Deaf Republic” begins with the following poem, titled “We Lived Happily During the War”:

And when they bombed other people’s houses, we

but not enough, we opposed them but not

enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America

was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house.

I took a chair outside and watched the sun.

In the sixth month
of a disastrous reign in the house of money

in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,
our great country of money, we (forgive us)

lived happily during the war.

Deaf Republic is a collection of poems woven together to form a narrative story, so those who usually aren’t too into poetry can still read this with ease. The story begins after the above poem: It is a time of unrest and violence in the fictional town of Vasenka. Soldiers come to town and kill a deaf boy. After the shot rings, the townspeople become deaf themselves. Consequently, they teach themselves sign language, which is illustrated throughout the book. The book is divided into two Acts. The first Act follows a newlywed couple, Alfonso and Sonya, while they are expecting their first child. The second Act follows Mama Galya, the head of the puppet theater, as she leads an insurgency against the military.

In “Deaf Republic”, we are confronted by silence in a myriad of ways. Silence in the face of oppressors can be powerful and defiant. (Citizens point to their ears as soldiers bark orders at them, they create their own sign language) Silence in the face of the oppressed can be devastating. (They take Alfonso / and no one stands up. Our silence stands up for us.)

“Deaf Republic” is a powerful read. It is a beautifully written piece with verses that will make you gasp in amazement. And yes, it is unsettling. But I would argue that more than ever, we need to learn to make peace with the feeling of uneasiness. We need to look inward, as painful as that may be, and use that uneasiness and discomfort to go about making change. And that’s something I’m still trying to grapple with: often, the right thing to do is not easy.

At the trial of God, we will ask: why did you allow all this?
And the answer will be an echo: why did you allow all this?

Besides being available in print, Hoboken and other BCCLS patrons can borrow “Deaf Republic” as an ebook from eBCCLS.

Written by:
Samantha Evaristo
Hoboken Library Outreach Assistant

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