By Marlene Alva
One of the most precious gifts of retirement is time—time to explore, time to learn, time to spend on oneself, time to reach out, time to reinvent, time to give back, time to do nothing. The list is endless. For once, we have the time to act on our inner wishes and to embrace a new type of to-do list.
I’ve always been interested in languages—both ancient and modern. As a student I was lucky enough to live in Rome and learn Italian. Then I married a Cuban and became fluent in Spanish. In my professional life I sought out and obtained assignments that required me to learn French and which allowed me to use my Spanish.
Now that I’m retired I’ve plunged in again—for the pure pleasure of it. There are wonderful online tools to help (highly recommended—and free!—is Duolingo). There are also many classes at all levels where you can interact with people of different ages and backgrounds. With streaming services and foreign language programming you can surround yourself with the sounds of a new language as often as you like. Learning a new language is not just an excellent exercise for the brain, although that is certainly an important aspect of it, especially at this stage of life. It’s also a window into new and different cultures, a way to connect with new people and an incredibly useful addition to one’s toolkit.
I first returned to my classical roots by starting to read again in Latin—with a facing English translation, of course. Then I did a major tuneup in Italian, which naturally involved extensive travel and eating in Italy. Now I’m part of a beta group doing online Hebrew. Arabic is around the corner, and then maybe a stroll through Urdu will be in order, followed by a trip to India. The paths are endless. Retirement allows you to follow whichever language paths beckon, and to do it at your pace and on your schedule.
Marlene is a retired international corporate lawyer who now spends her time between Paris, New York and Miami, and practices her new skills all over the world.