Pardon My French



The other day I had to Google the French word for “stork” for another post. I was pretty sure it was “cigogne” but since my autocorrect is set to  English, it underlined it right away. For the record it also just underlined “Google” and “autocorrect”.

At any rate it turned out that I had spelled it right. Once I knew how it was spelled I was curious to learn, or rather to re-learn, why the cigogne was important to Alsace, the region of France I had visited at age fifteen as a study abroad experience. Googling “cigogne” linked me to French Wikipedia so I clicked on the top suggestion curious about how much French I could still understand. I took five years of French language through junior high and high school and was proficient enough in it by college that I was able to test out of it for the undergraduate general education requirements. So it is going on fifteen years since I’ve used it. French just isn’t the most useful second language for southern California.

In the past I have occasionally enjoyed watching French movies or listening to American movies with the French dubbing turned on (it does wonders for Star Wars Episode II). I can usually understand most of what I hear, although I still occasionally need subtitles to keep up with the plot. But I don’t have a lot of opportunity for reading anymore, even in English much less in French, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I could actually follow 90% of what the article was saying.

I know that I have often heard that learning more than one language is good for improving mental strength and flexibility. I have also heard that the younger that you are when you learn a language the more of it you are likely to retain. This certainly seems true for French, although clearly I am wildly out of practice. Understanding a language without being able to speak it is like being Han Solo and carrying on one sided conversations with Chewie. (TWO Star Wars references in one post, ah-ah-ah).

I guess I don’t really have a point in all of this except that it was pretty cool to know that I can understand more than one language even if I don’t speak it very well. It makes me realize just how much of an accomplishment it is for some of my classmates from other countries to be able to speak and write in English  with apparent aplomb.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on March 29, 2014.

One Response to “Pardon My French”

  1. When I’m typing in a post, the editing screen frequently mangles (i.e., auto-“corrects”) anything that isn’t english, trying to make it sound kind-of english. It’s kind of tedious, since I blog about Thai language stuff, so it happens frequently.

    Anyway, I think being able to follow something as complex as a movie or a conversation in a foreign language is pretty cool and a real achievement, regardless of how well you can(‘t) speak the language.

    Bonne chance!

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