Learning languages

Teacher and Coach Michael Atkinson knows a variety of different languages and teaches Spanish 1 and 2.

“I can read/speak five counting English, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, and Spanish and I just always liked languages. Then I got interested and wanted to learn Hebrew because of the Bible, and then I joined the air force and found out you can study languages and that’s how I learned Arabic. Languages are like a puzzle to me and figuring stuff out,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson believes that Spanish is easy to learn because it has a lot of English cognates or words that have a common origin.

“Languages, in general, are difficult. Spanish is a pretty easy language because they use our alphabet and they have lots of words that are similar, but I had to kind of learn it on my own and that was kind of difficult, but overall it’s a pretty easy language to learn,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson learned a new language during the time that he worked in the military and continued to learn more as a hobby.

“The first language that I learned was Arabic and I was in the air force so they trained us and taught us and we had to use it on our job. And then Spanish, of course, I’ve used for teaching. The others I just kinda use those for fun to read stories, learn more. One day I would like to use them to travel to Greece and be able to talk and read and get along with people,” Atkinson said.

When thinking of words in a different language, they don’t always show up as the right language.

“English is the language I think in, but lots of times when I’m trying to do Spanish or Greek, especially Spanish, Greek words or Arabic words will pop in my head instead of the Spanish one that I’m trying to think of. It should be kind of natural but English is the language I think in,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson takes interest in the problem-solving part of languages and the variety of meanings that words have.

“ Languages are amazing to me, the different uses of it. I love math but it’s not like math where this always equals that. In a language, a word could mean lots of different things so you have to figure out what that word’s meaning is in this specific case. It’s more like an art and I just find it very challenging and stimulating at the same time,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson admitted that translating isn’t easy when dealing with fast fluent speakers.

“I translated Arabic when I was in the air force, translated some Peruvian stuff but most of it was phone communication and other audio type stuff. It’s not easy for you to figure out and you gotta break it down about what the person means here and that word may mean this in the situation,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson stated that if you don’t use what you know you lose it.

 

“I do not speak Arabic near as well as I did when I first got here. If you don’t use a language you’re going to forget it. It’s still about hearing and if I get in the groove of it I can get right back into it, but it doesn’t come as quickly into my mind as it did when I was using it right when I got out,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson learns more about languages all the time and enjoys others taking an interest in them as well.

“I do like teaching Spanish, I get to learn new stuff every year whether it’s new material that I didn’t quite understand last year or like if I have a Spanish speaker like Tasha is in our class where I get to learn a new word or a new phrase or how they say things in Mexico. Most kids after about 2 weeks get tired of Spanish and don’t want to learn anymore, but there are some kids that are interested in languages, you can tell they still like them, and I like seeing kids get interested in learning,” Atkinson said.