Earlier this year I stumbled upon a video of a guy calling himself Benny the Irish Polyglot that got me realizing that I was making a lot of excuses about my progress with the French language, and wrote about it. Benny was cool enough to repost my blog on his site (which is a great resource for anyone trying to learn another language, so check it out, here), and I figured I owed it to anyone who stopped by to post something about my progress. Read More →
I have just arrived from a fantastic holiday on the island of Kos in Greece! I am busy adjusting to being back in the real world, and until I have time to actually write some decent posts, here are links to a few things that should provide good reading material in the meantime.
The amazing Mama over at HJ Underway wrote a post echoing my thoughts about speaking a language other than the local one, and the American language debate. Check it out, here.
My latest article for MyFrenchLife, talking about tennis in Paris, was published while I was away. You can read it, here.
Benny the super Irish Polyglot found my blog post about my addiction to excuses, and he posted it on his site, with some of his commentary (and EXCELLENT feedback in the comments for those of you looking to learn another language). Check out his site, here, and the blog where my addiction post makes an appearance, here.
Until next time! 😉
A post that has inspired me like few others…
For this Language Monday I want to introduce to you Benny Lewis! Benny Lewis is an Irish guy that speaks an absurd amount of languages. People that speak several languages, like benny, are called polyglots. Benny currently speaks eight languages and is working on three others. But Benny hasn’t always had the ability to speak several languages with ease… Benny discovered something when it comes to language learning: speaking is the best way to learn. He did a TEDxTalk (video below) where he talks about how he began learning languages at a rapid rate.
Now we might not all have the opportunity to learn languages as Benny does, but it gives even the worst language learners among us hope! Check out the TEDxTalk and also check out Benny’s website for more information! He offers help to aspiring Polyglots, and let’s face it… who doesn’t want to know more languages???
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When I first came to Paris in March to meet my new co-workers, I was really impressed with how well everyone spoke English. After being here for several months now, there are some quirks that happen when crossing from French to English that I find particularly endearing/amusing/hysterical. Here’s a list:
- Pseudo-inappropriate use of the word “shiny.” Example: “Wow–the sun is out today! It’s so shiny outside!” This one makes me smile every time.
- Addition of the “H” sound to words beginning with a vowel. Example: “Edgy” becomes “hedgy,” “oven” becomes “hoven” or “ear” becomes “hear.” This one usually leaves me scratching my head for a moment or two while I try to figure out what the person really meant to say.
- Pronunciation of the “K” sound in words beginning with “KN.” Example: “I need to wash the kah-nife,” or “My stomach is in kah-nots.” I kick into English Correction Mode when I hear this one.
- Occasional swapping of the “S” sound for a “TH” sound. Example: “I feel sick” becomes “I feel thick.” See how I said this was hysterical?
- Occasional swapping of silent or “F” sounding “GH” for a “TH” sound. Example: “I was laughing” becomes “I was lauthing”, or “This is really good dough” becomes “This is really good doth.” Another head-scratcher. Lots of times these words result in a “Huh?” from me.
- Pseudo-inappropriate (though sometimes applicable) use of the word “funny” as a substitute for “fun.” Example: “It’s not funny being sick.” Uh, no, it isn’t a comedy, you’re right. 🙂 Or, “I saw my best friend this weekend and it was really funny.” At this point I’m sitting there waiting for a story about some drunken mishap that will result in me laughing until I cry, but my blank stare is usually just met with a smile.
- Inappropriate use of plural nouns or adjectives. Example: “I need to get my hairs cut. They are too long.” Or “I just scored 84 millions!” How can you not laugh at this? 🙂
I read a blog recently that talked about how Facebook has caused a lot of us to edit our lives, only depicting the happy, exciting, entertaining moments we have, and another that echoed similar thoughts about how inauthentic we are when portraying our lives via social media. Though I’m certainly no expert (and definitely am not interested in sharing all of the intimate details of my life with 500 Facebook “friends”), I would guess this behavior is derived from a desire to be thought of as witty, fun, cultured, [insert your personal list of ego-boosting adjectives here], etc. This got me to thinking that I could probably stand to be more honest in my writing. After all, much to most of your surprise, I am not perfect (but see how witty I am??).
A lot of my posts thus far have focused on the cool things I’ve done or seen, the interesting places I’ve been, or the funny moments I’ve encountered. But not everything in Paris is peachy. I’ve been here nearly five months and my French is still extremely basic (like, “my French friends/co-workers are still ordering my lunch for me,” kind of basic). Fail.
And sure, maybe this is to be expected considering I haven’t had the chance to take any French lessons yet, and I do all of my work in English every day. But it doesn’t stop me from feeling like I am the biggest failure alive. Here’s why:
- I know it was only high school, but back in the day I was one of the few language nerds at my school. Got awards, hung out translating all day, made up my own classes with a few other students when our level exceeded the school’s offering… You get the point. And yeah, one of the languages I studied was French.
- I studied abroad in college and specifically chose the program I did because it had a required language component. I studied Xhosa. By the end of my three-and-a-half-month stay, I was easily having basic conversations with my home-stay family.
- I can only half-read the signs around me.
- I can’t do many important things (like finding out where my French social security card is) without help.
- I can’t pronounce my boyfriend’s name properly.
All of these factors culminate into what I can only describe as extreme embarrassment. At this moment in time, I am largely illiterate, can’t do things that I need to by myself, and am constantly being corrected on the things I try to say. Sound familiar? Of course it does. You’re being reminded of when you started the first grade.
What’s worse is that, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the rumors about the French hating Americans or hating people who only speak English are false. “How can that be worse?” you must be asking yourself. Well, because they are SO nice to me here that even during my attempts to speak French at stores or restaurants, my Americanism is detected and people automatically start talking to me, pleasantly, in English. And nothing adds to the sting of the existing embarrassment like making an effort to speak the language and having it be completely rejected.
Or how about sitting in a room full of people, all of which are engaged with each other in conversation, while you sit there, alone, trying to understand any part of what’s being said (or in my case, making up songs in my head as I stare out the window)? It becomes even more embarrassing when a joke is made and the room erupts in laughter while you’re sitting there, stone-faced, unsure of what just happened. And of course you occasionally think to yourself, “maybe they’re laughing at me” because really… you wouldn’t know if they were.
Despite all of this, I must admit (not for the sake of seeking an ego-boosting adjective) that my frustration level remains surprisingly low most of the time. Perhaps it’s because I have hope that I’ll be starting lessons soon, or the fact that I’m living in Paris (!) so nothing really seems that bad, or maybe it’s pure ignorance on my part. But I just keep thinking that the more I try and the more I’m exposed to, one day something in my brain will just click and French verbs will conjugate flawlessly, pronunciations will flow out of my mouth correctly and with ease, and the girl at Subway will continue taking my order in French instead of switching to English half-way through. (And yes. I eat Subway while living in France. Don’t judge. I’m trying to be honest, here!).
Until that day, my face will continue to turn red when I try to speak French, I’ll still buy the wrong things at the store, and I’ll keep waiting for that French social security card to magically appear without me having to chase it down. Here’s hoping I don’t break a leg…