Hobbies and language

I recently started a salsa dance class, out of interest in dance, as well as a need for exercise.  I had assumed that because the website and the woman I dealt with were bilingual, that at least some of the instruction would be in English.  I was almost right.

I was the only person in the class who didn’t speak Chinese, so I mostly watched and followed along.  The names of the steps were in English, so that helped a bit.  In fact, I got to learn a few new terms because of the repetitive nature of the class, it helped with my listening skills, and I got to do something I enjoyed at the same time.

Taking an interest course in a different language is a great way to practice your language skills, but it may be difficult if your language level isn’t very high yet.  Practical courses are easier, because there is a lot of watching, demonstration, and practice involved, with the instruction not being the main part.

Even if you don’t want to take a course entirely in another language (or if this option isn’t available to you), you can still pick up or develop a hobby that involves other languages or culture.  Dance or music from other countries, foreign films, cuisine, crafts.  Learn more about terms you already know, for example, the background of Italian food names, or learn how to read knitting patterns in another language.  It will add interest to your existing hobbies, and won’t put too much pressure on your language learning.

BaseballTaking it to the extreme, American Jim O’Neill’s lifelong love of baseball language (not the sport itself, but the language used) has led him to create a dictionary of baseball terms.  Not just an English dictionary, but an English-Spanish one.

“I was just a little kid when I first heard ‘Can of corn,’ ” O’Neill said. “And I thought that was the coolest expression I had ever heard in my life.”

Hearing that baseball phrase, which means an easy-to-catch fly ball, started O’Neill on a decades-long quest to translate English baseball phrases into Spanish dialects.

O’Neill, faculty emeritus in the St. Cloud State University Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, turned his love of the language into a book he self-published, “The Bilingual Baseball Dictionary English-Spanish/Spanish-English.”

His dictionary contains about 8,000 definitions in its 344 pages, with nearly 3½ pages alone dedicated to various ways of saying “hit a home run” in Spanish.

I thought that most hobbies would only have a few pages’ worth of useful terms, but who knew baseball could have so many?

Full article from the St. Cloud Times.

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