Learning the Language

When I was in high school many eons ago, my parents and teachers encouraged me to take Latin as a 2nd language.  I now regret the decision somewhat, even though it did provide an elementary background in the Romance language.  All I can truly remember today is “Veni, vidi, vici” or something like that.  Now, I wish that I had taken Spanish, because it appears to be the 2nd language of America, or at least where I live.

After we started traveling to France, I decided to teach myself French.  Fortunately, the Internet existed, along with a lot of inexpensive language programs that one can run on the computer.  Day after day, I studied, I listened, I read, and I conjugated to myself. After several years of this, I am now proud to say that I am what would be considered an “advanced beginner”.  However, all of this study is nothing compared to the real life experience of speaking in French on a daily basis, particularly to a French person.  I have learned that one’s ears have a learning curve of their own, and that picking up the nuances of the spoken language can only truly be mastered by speaking and listening one on one in real life situations.

It is true that the French truly appreciate any efforts to speak their language while in France.  It is viewed as a sign of respect, no matter how badly we butcher the words.  It is no different if we see a foreigner in the US try to communicate in broken English.  We want to help, and we appreciate their efforts.  The only difference is that many of the French, particularly of the younger generations, are bilingual and speak pretty good English.  But it is not their native language, and they are retiscent about using it because they are embarrassed that their proficiency is less than perfect.

So jump in there, make the effort, and do not worry about how it sounds.  Every “Bonjour”, “Merci, au revoir”, and “s’il vous plait” is truly appreciated.

On our last trip to France, having not had time to study French for almost a year, I suddenly noticed that I was able to understand about 30% of what would be blaring on the radio when we were in a taxi.  For me, that was amazing, because radio announcers sound like they are talking 80 mph. First, I noticed that I was able to pick out words.  If I was lucky, I could even pick out a few phrases that I recognized.  I think that when one hears entire phrases and sentences and grasps the meaning, one is starting to reach a true comprehension of the language.  Of course there are always the nuances and double meanings that, as foreigners, we may never truly master.  But hey!  I just want to be able to communicate ordinary needs and wants, not discuss Plato.

To me, learning a language is fun.  It helps to bridge the gap between different cultures. And I think that is a good thing.


Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: