Language Learning Resources in Western MA

Language Learning Resources in Western MA

Learning a second language is a fun and exciting challenge for the brain. Since learning a second language is easiest during early childhood, language learning can be the perfect intergenerational pursuit for parents who want to expand their knowledge. Fluency in more than one language opens up career opportunities, as well as the ability to converse easily with a greater number of people, both at home and when traveling. But with over 3000 languages, how do you pick which one to learn?

“Over the course of human history, thousands of languages have developed from what was once a much smaller number,” writes TED-Ed. “How did we end up with so many? And how do we keep track of them all? Alex Gendler explains how linguists group languages into language families, demonstrating how these linguistic trees give us crucial insights into the past.”

Click here to view the full lesson. 

COMMUNITY-BASED EVENTS TO SUPPORT LANGUAGE LEARNING

The Jones Library in Amherst, MA offers numerous opportunities for children and adults to learn another language. On August 18th, from 6pm-7:30pm, the library will be offering a bilingual Math and Science Storytime. This program will feature stories, songs, and activities in both English and Spanish. This program is designed for children ages three through five. Please register in the kids’ room or at 413-259- 3091.

Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world. For that reason it is a very practical and enriching second language to learn. On Saturday, August 13, 11am, José González will be performing family friendly music, sung in Spanish and English, at Historic North Hall. He will play original songs from his “Caribbean Fiesta for Kids” album. The hall is wheelchair-accessible and air-conditioned. All ages welcome. 40 Searle Road. Huntington, MA. (FREE)

Even dead languages, which are no longer spoken, can be worthwhile to learn. Knowledge of unspoken languages such as Latin and Ancient Greek can provide insight into cultures of the past, opening up avenues for historical learning. Many English words also have Greek origins, such that an understanding of Ancient Greek can make it easier to determine the meaning of unknown words in English. This is an especially useful skill for students. The Forbes Library Ancient Greek Language Study Group run by retired professor Nicolas Gross, meets on Tuesdays from 2pm-4pm. For more information contact nicolaspgross@gmail.com. 413-587-1011. 20 West Street. Northampton, MA. (FREE)

COMMUNITY-BASED RESOURCES TO SUPPORT LANGUAGE LEARNING

How about Italian? Italian Cultural Center of Western Mass in Springfield offers Italian language classes for older self-directed  teens and lifelong learners. Beginner I & II and Intermediate level classes are held for 10 weeks.  The ICC also has culinary art events and volunteer opportunities for a casual or immersive experience with language learning.

The Jones Library also offers assistance for community members learning to speak, read, and write English as a second language. You can combine your interest in language learning with service-based learning, by becoming an ESL volunteer. Volunteers perform the roles of Instructional Tutor, Informal Conversation Partner, and Conversation Circle Leader. Find out whether you’re interested and qualified by reading more on the Jones Library website. 413-259-3090. 43 Amity Street. Amherst, MA.

While many people choose to learn a new language in order to easily converse with people in another part of the world, learning a second language can also help you forge greater connections to your local community. American Sign Language, used by hundreds of thousands of deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing people, is a physical and visual form of communication based on gestures, facial expressions, and movements. It is also a highly regional language. If you want to try out a few signs yourself, check out the website Signing Savvy. As with all languages, however, learning ASL requires immersion. The Monthly ASL Coffee Chat group on meetup.com provides a space for: “Deaf, hard of hearing, or hearing ASL users looking to meet new folks and socialize in a ‘voices off,’ ASL-only setting.” The group meets every second Sunday of the month at 1pm at the Atkins Farms in South Amherst. All ages are welcome. A basic knowledge of ASL is recommended. Go to the Meetup website for more information.

No matter what language you want to learn, it is a good idea to inquire at your local library about language learning resources. Some libraries have subscriptions to resources such as Rosetta Stone, Mango Languages, or Muzzy Online (for young children). Libraries also host conversational language learning meet-ups and events. And if not, you may be able to start one yourself!

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