Der Amerikanische Urlauber

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Parles-tu Français?

La Vieille Bourse, Lille, France Posted by Hello

I had my first real, meaningful conversation in French today. And by meaningful I mean talking about real stuff, not made up textbook conversation. I was amazingly able to get a microphone connection to work properly over MSN Messenger, so for about an hour I talked with my friend Syl interchangably between French and English. Mostly more in English, since he's pretty near fluent, while I'm beginning French.

Syl is from Lille, a city in the north of France, close to the Belgian border. Hence the above photo, of La Vieille Bourse, at one time a site of bustling commerce. Paris can't get all the credit now, can it?

One thing that's readily clear is, it takes a lot more to speak the language than just knowing vocabulary. You have to be on your feet and be able to pretty much subconscioulsy summon what you're looking to say. It's not like writing, where you can look up a word you don't know, or reading, where you can understand in context. You have to have material mastered before you can speak it.

Another hurdle I actually shouldn't have but I do, is getting over the nervousness of making mistakes while talking. The only way I'm ever going to speak properly is to just start talking and make those mistakes. If my immigrant ancestors could come to this country and eventually get from speaking broken English to speaking it fluently with no fancy education, then I can put this stuff behind me.

French is interesting, because unless you know what a word sounds like beforehand, you're going to have one heck of a time understanding someone. It's not like German or Italian, for example, which are very clearly pronounced. I can see how many words in English pose a problem also for people learning it. But, see, at least I don't have to worry about learning English!

Anyway, I was really excited, because despite the pausing I had to make to find words and mistakes I may have made, I said more in French today than I actually have in the entire 15 weeks I spent in French I. Yay for independent achievement.

And this helps me in Italian as well (though I've been learning most Italian through actually speaking in the first place) because it helps break down the intimidation factor.

One thing that strikes me as funny is, even though I know better, because I've never left the Anglophone world (which is quite large so it's not hard to do) it's so easy to believe that everyone in the world speaks English. You just get that impression. And not just dribs and drabs, but know it fluently. That's just not the case. But it's easy, when you never experience otherwise, to feel that way, even when you know it's to the contrary. So it's going to be cool to try and employ the Italian I know. I'm glad, even though Italy has a multilingual tourist industry that does know English (which is good because while I'm getting good in Italian... I don't think I could solve a billing dispute in it quite yet, though I know enough Italian hand language I think I could get my displeasure across!) it's not like the Netherlands, where 90% know it, and they get so impatient with you if you try speaking Dutch and mess up that they immediately switch into your language!

Anyway, you also can probably tell that yet another day went by and I didn't get my itinerary yet... I personally am beginning to think they plan on placing us in a barn, and they aren't telling us the intinerary yet so none of us can say anything! I'm getting visions of this I Love Lucy episode where they wind up staying at an Italian farmer's barn, and Lucy has to milk the cow. (Not the grape stomping one, that one was the episode before)

Come si dice « impatient » in italiano?


  • At 1:28 AM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Psi-Lord said…

    Forse “impaziente”?

  • At 9:48 AM, May 12, 2005, Blogger PTA Mom said…

    Speaking is much more difficult than listening. It's hard to pull the correct word in the correct conjugation at the correct moment. Sounds like you have a good attitude about learning languages. You'll be fluent in no time.

  • At 4:55 PM, May 12, 2005, Blogger KissMyA$$ said…

    Dont be so sure about Italian, i have less then half of me Italian so i decided to take it up and it is pretty hard i mean it is pronounced clear but it's very difficult to learn
    Oh and so is Portuguese i have that in me and that is hard
    and Hawaiian and Spanish is prob the easiest i just took spanish and it is easy and i have Hawaiian in me and that is really easy!!!!
    Have fun whatever ur up to....

  • At 1:54 AM, May 13, 2005, Blogger Joe said…

    It's really all relative. Some people find certain things easy, others find them very difficult. Languages to me are really enjoyable; at the same time there are elements of any language that will be difficult to master.

    Italian isn't really that bad. To me, I find it very close to Spanish, while at the same time it has a lot of grammar that is similar to French. It's actually helped me understand some things I didn't quite grasp in French.

    Everyone thinks Spanish is easiest, and classify others, such as German, as being really difficult. Some are more difficult than others, but a lot of it has to do with your own native language.

    That's really cool that you're learning Hawaiian! How did you go about learning that?

  • At 10:54 AM, May 22, 2005, Anonymous Syl said…

    Of course you had to talk about this awful experience with you on MSN messenger Joe! Actually you're right about the nervousness of making mistakes. That's why I let your find your words, I could here you were all nervous but belive me I was too! But everythin went great. I didn't laugh. Not even a bit. But next time, less English young man, from now on, I can't speak English! ;-)
    And you're right about Paris, it can't get all the credit now! HA Paris! Lille is just the best!


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