I’ve been studying Spanish for the last five months or so through online courses and an app on my phone. It’s really cool what we have available today when it comes to learning new languages. When I first learned French I did it in two years at Santa Barbara City College in California. I grabbed hold of French, wrestled it to the ground and wouldn’t let it go.

Ever since I was a child I’ve talked to myself. This comes in handy when you spend so much time on your own. It also came in very handy when I was learning French since it helped me to think in French more and more. It was great living in Santa Barbara where so many people visit from around the world. I was able to talk to lots of people and had great relationships with my professors, so when I was accepted into a study abroad program in Paris, I was already fluent in the language.

When I wasn’t studying in Paris I traveled around Europe, picked up German, Italian and Russian. We didn’t have cell phones back then or MP3 players. Some of the first portable CD players were coming out and I just picked up one of the coolest from Sony. I think I took about 50 compact discs with me to France.

I remember meeting this guy in Prague who was from Sweden who had “forgotten” his French. I couldn’t grasp how he had forgotten the language. When I went back to Santa Barbara I had a hard time switching back to English and the culture shock of the United States was a bit much for me. I withdrew from college and went into working full time.

Russian was the first to go. I could barely read or write it. Enough to get by when I saw Russian signs. It was okay. I was completely fluent in French, one of the languages of my heritage. The German and Italian fled overnight together. The German bothered me a little bit more, but I still had my beloved French.

As the years passed, I would watch French films when I could find them, speak to whomever I could in French and still was very strong in the language. One day, I picked up L’Etranger and I couldn’t read it anymore. I understood some of the languages but my brain didn’t process it like it once did.

I had never understood illiteracy until I was illiterate in French. I still spoke French but I knew my vocabulary had really dropped. It wasn’t until 2015 or so that I accepted that I had forgotten most of French. I had told myself, over and over again, that I would “get it back” when I went back to France. Something I had been telling myself for about 15 years. After all, whenever I traveled to a non-English speaking country I picked up the language quickly, so the French would come back in full force, right?

I recently started studying French on that same app that I have been learning Spanish. What a shock it was to barely remember anything and to have lost my accent. The loss really shook me. However, I’ve continued to study and I’ve started cross studying from French to Spanish, Spanish to French and English to both French and Spanish. I’ve not forgotten as much French as I had thought but that accent. Lord, help me!

Technology has brought the world closer together in so many ways and over half of all web content is in English. How sad. Here we are, with tools that I would have died for years ago. Tools that would have allowed me to keep speaking French, German, Russian and learn all the other languages I wanted to learn at our fingertips, yet here’s English dominating the web.

What’s the point of this lament? Don’t give into English. Learn it, by all means, if you so desire. I believe that language helps us learn more about each other. However, don’t give up the languages you speak. Fight for them. The tools are out there. Perhaps it’s just me, but I love languages, I love words and I love joining them together in sensual harmony.

So, whatever you do though, don’t settle for personal device translators and technological crutches that steal the wonder and joy of language. Sure, you can have a conversation with someone in a language you don’t speak, which is cool. How much better though, if you learned the language and the gifts of the culture behind it?