Tuesday 14 January 2020

The art of learning or not learning a new language

The bog standard English speaking person rarely learns another language. I guess it isn't necessarily our fault, it is because it is the second most commonly used language spoken in the world so why would we need to learn another one? 

In the UK languages are on the curriculum for every child to learn but somehow it doesn't seem to be taken too seriously. When I was at school, we had the option of learning French or German. At the time neither really appealed to me as I never had access to those languages other than in my lessons and didn't even holiday in these countries. Although saying that I holidayed in Wales and never learnt the Welsh language and grandparents were Welsh. Tell a lie I learnt two words, I know that "Araf" means slow and "Merchant" means Women, purely learnt from the mountainous roads and the public toilets whilst on holiday. Which brings me back to why I couldn't really see the need or inspiration to learn either French or German as I didn't holiday there.

My sister was the language learner of the family and is fluent in French and did a degree in French language, she also lived in Colmar near Strasborg and Menton for a period of time. That is the only time that I visited France whilst growing up. In fact as I remember it was so beautiful. I would in fact love to return to Colmar one day. One for the bucket list. My dad also has a taste for languages and when ever he goes on holiday he attempts to pick some of the basics up. He is forever saying "thank you", "you're welcome" and "good bye" in Filipino, Japanese and Portuguese! Even if it is to random waiters in an English restaurant!

I haven't picked up a French book since high school but recently I decided to start to learn French again, inspired by a French/Portuguese guy I know and the fact it was a language I had already got the basics for from when at school I have started to engage with learning or not learning (as it often feels) this new language. 

I have started having 1:1 lessons and have numerous phrase, verb, children's story books and dictionaries coming out of my ears. I have invested in audio programmes, I listen to French radio, watch everything on Netflix with French subtitles and even have my google search in French...quite frustrating on occasions or when feeling tired! I carry a notebook with me and if I think of a phrase or word in French I check it and then write it down. I am even waking in the night and not going back to sleep until I find out what I am trying to say in French. I know crazy but funnily enough I am really enjoying it. 

The problem I am having and that I remember having at school is the listening part of learning the language. When I read or see the words written down I can easily start to pick out words and phrases and get some understanding of what is written but the spoken word not so much!

French people sound totally different to how I sound when reading out loud in French!!! No shit! Even basic phases and words that I know well suddenly seem like they are speaking in some form of alien voice from a far away planet.

In fact if I listen to audio French for too long I start to make my own "Frenglish" words up...yes that is right a whole new language a mix of French and English, I don't mean Franglais either, as that is already a combination of French and English words together to make up a sentence (although I do that too) for example, Je voudrais some wine.

Frenglish is a combination of both an English and French word mixed together as one word. For example..."FUCTAIN" This is a mixture of the word fuck in English and whore/fuck in French. (FUCK/PUTAIN) .You never know it might take off, I might be the inventor of a whole new sophisticated language that the world wants to learn, maybe not with profanities like that or is it perhaps that I just need to practice French listening a little more?!

I read a quote the other day and his words resonate within me. It was said by an American author Harriett Jackson Brown Jr. Since learning a new language as an adult I have up most respect for anyone who attempts to learn a language other than their native mother tongue. 

"Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language" (Harriett Jackson Brown Jr.)

This quote and learning French has given me far more respect than I have ever had before to all the people living in England speaking our language. The English are far too lazy and when go to foreign lands almost expect people to speak English. Other nations do not expect it when they come to the UK. Perhaps we should all take a leaf out of their books and start to learn a language. We don't have to become experts but just enough to get by shows diligence, commitment and respect. 

My French is so broken I sound like I am auditioning as a French Christopher Walken. Every.......word.......is .......said........so.......slowly........with.......long........pauses..... inbetween (Yes I know you attempted to do the voice of Mr Walken himself then didn't you!?)

So as my French language journey continues. I urge you all to have a go even if you do make your own words up! 

Merci d'avoir lu

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