The Joy of Learning a Language by Abbie

Abbie TaylorThis post by Abbie Johnson Taylor

When I was in high school, I took four years of Spanish and two years of French. In my junior year, my mother insisted I take French. I really didn’t want to but couldn’t think of a way out.

To my surprise, I discovered that learning French was more fun than learning Spanish. Each lesson in the French textbook started with a story about French teen-agers. Every day, the teacher played a tape of authentic French speakers acting out the stories with sound effects. Looking back years later, I was inspired to write the following from That’s Life: New and Selected Poems.

French Sign Language (langue des signes frança...
French Sign Language (langue des signes française or LSF) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


In the high school classroom,

as I read the story in the textbook,

I’m in France with Guy and Suzanne,

basking on a sunny beach

or drinking wine in an outdoor café.

PARIS - DECEMBER 9: People dance at Palais Royal square on December 9, 2012 in Paris, France. This flash mob is held in memory of famous dancer Dominique Bagouet. - stock photo


As French dance music fills the room

from the tape accompanying the lesson                  ,

I find myself in the arms of a handsome monsieur

after a meal of chicken in wine sauce

topped off with chocolate mousse.

We whirl around the room.


The school bell’s clang jolts me back.

I rise, follow others out of the classroom,

resigned to being a teen-ager in Wyoming.



Did you ever learn a foreign language? How old were you? What was it like? Click on the link below to hear me read the above poem.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of:

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome



Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

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That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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16 thoughts on “The Joy of Learning a Language by Abbie

  1. I agree with Doris. I didn’t have the opportunity to learn another language in school until my senior year when I took Latin 1. Surprisingly enough it helped me as I learned Spanish! I lived in Germany for four years and learned some of the language but not nearly enough, as many people spoke English. I was totally immersed in Spanish in Mexico, as I lived in an all-speaking Mexican neighborhood. Not fluent, but pretty good. Loved your poetry!


  2. I had 5 years of Latin. Could translate Catullus’s poems with the best of them. Unfortunately, you don’t SPEAK Latin. (Church Latin is from 1000 years later and is quite different from Classical.) So I never learned to deal with a spoken foreign language.

    Right now I’m trying to learn Italian, using language tapes and I’m finding it really hard. I’m not a verbal learner. I’m going to combine dvds giving both written and spoken and see if I do any better. This Spring one of our PBS stations was showing foreign mysteries. I loved watching the Italian ones and picking up on some of the dialogue. I certainly agree that immersion is best.

    You had a smart French teacher. Great way to do it. Fun post.


    1. One year for the heck of it, my dad and I took a semester of Latin when I was an adult, but I found it boring. Because Latin isn’t used that much, I saw no point in continuing it. Good luck with learning Italian.

      Sent from my iPad



  3. Hearing you read was perfect, Abbie- thank you it’s lovely to hear your voice! I learned French to first year university level, but very much textbook style. By that, I mean that I can still read and translate quite a lot but I could never speak it properly since the reading and writing was the focus in the 1960s. When I lived in Holland for 3 years I learned some Dutch, but that was so long ago and sadly not much can be recalled now.


  4. Abbie uou have a beautoful reading voice. I loved lostening to you reading that poem. I believe this os my favorite piem so far, that I’ve read of yours.

    I took French in my Freshman year and Spanish in my Sophomore year. My Spanish teacher said I was the onlybone she knew of that spoke Spanish with a Frwnch accent. Lol Cher’ley


  5. What a unique and great post Abbie. And your writing imagination was showing at a young age. I have cared for people with alzheimers who know several languages and they can lose one language but still speak the other, as I believe they are learned on different sides of the brain. So it might behoove all of us to learn two languages! Neva


    1. Neva, as a music therapist in a nursing home, I once worked with an Alzheimers’ patient who spoke only Spanish. This was years after high school so my Spanish was pretty rusty, but I remembered a few important sentences. “Hello, how are you?” “Would you like to hear some music?” “Do you have to go to the bathroom?” I even learned some songs in Spanish for her which she really enjoyed.


  6. Abbie, this is a great post! I LOVED your poem!! I took a few semesters of Spanish in high school and enjoyed it but I didn’t continue in college, and I wish now I would have. Now kids learn a new language starting in elementary school — with our global systems, it’s probably a good idea for them. Thanks for sharing with us!


  7. I had three semesters of Spanish in college–and then very short, just-for-reading classes in French and German in grad school. I can still read some French, but not a lot. My Spanish is much better, but I’m nowhere near fluent. It is fun to learn another language though. I like to learn a little bit of the native language when I travel to other countries.


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