Mar. 10th, 2017

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I cannot recall sixth grade without recalling our teacher, Miss Smith. For whatever it's worth, Miss Smith was an older, physically imposing woman—not fat, but solidly proportioned—with flaming red hair and definite opinions.

One of those opinions was that, since our class was in the "college-bound" track—how I ended up there has always been a mystery to me, as I did nothing to consciously be there, but I digress—that it would behoove us to get a head start on the foreign language requirement, and to that end, we were all going to learn Spanish.

Spanish, because by that time, most junior high schools in New York City offered only Spanish and French as foreign languages. And if memory serves, the principal reason for studying Spanish, according to Miss Smith, was that it was much easier to learn and pronounce than French.

To achieve this goal, all of us were expected to buy a copy of a paperback titled See It & Say It In Spanish. When I informed my mother of this requirement, I fully expected her to blow her top, because she was quite adamantly opposed, in principle, to academic requirements from public school teachers requiring the spending of money (someday, I shall have to relate the scandal, during junior year in high school, in response to a "requirement" to subscribe to Newsweek) or the investment of time (typically to watch some news show on television).

Curiously enough, no such outburst occurred, probably because my mother (a language teacher in the New York public schools) just happened to have a copy of the book somewhere among her stuff.

In the end, although Miss Smith's heart was in the right place, our overall progress in Spanish was limited to learning pronunciation, some basic phrases, and things like the months of the year, the days of the week, and numbers.

Still, even that gave us something of a leg up on other junior high students whose first introduction to the language occurred after the start of the first junior high school year.

Despite Miss Smith's arguments promoting the study of Spanish over French, my academic path in junior high followed my mother's wish that I learn French, the study of which continued for six years, until I graduated from high school. In the end, a knowledge of French has served me well, professionally.

In the end, as far as language study is concerned, it's all good, especially in the case of French and Spanish, which share common roots as Romance languages evolved from Latin.

I now spend time—in a social environment in which Spanish is ever more prominent—studying Spanish, and among the books I refer to is my old, yellow, beat-up copy of See It & Say It In Spanish.



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