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language learning at the zoo

22 November, 2011

Learning any new language is difficult, and this is definitely the case with learning Polish.

My mouth has trouble producing some of the sounds necessary, my ears have a problem differentiating between the numerous consonant clusters, my less-than-stellar memory is not helping me remember all the new vocabulary, and for some odd reason, my brain wants to use Moroccan Arabic instead of the language of my new adopted homeland.

I’m not without hope however, because I have a new language tutor friend.  We’re trading English lessons for Polish lessons, and so far, this seems to be working out really well.

Last weekend, she and I headed over to the Warsaw Zoo (pronounced ZOH-oh) for a language learning field trip.

We spent a few hours exploring the grounds of the zoo, checking out the animals and talking about the things we were seeing, hearing and smelling.  As teachable moments presented themselves, we took turns explaining different aspects of our languages as they applied to the signs inside the elephant house or the origins of a certain animal’s name.

After having read about Warsaw’s zoo last summer in Diane Ackerman’s The Zookeeper’s Wife (thanks again Christy!), it was great to finally see the place that played an important role in saving a significant number of Warsaw’s Jews during WWII.

I enjoyed this outing as an authentic language learning exercise as well as an opportunity to socialize and check out one of the locales on my Warsavian “must see” list.  Unfortunately though, the sun set too soon, and I did not get to walk all of the grounds, so a return trip is in order.

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