Saturday, October 14, 2017
Very soon my wife and I are heading off to Paris. I am trying to learn some French. I do not speak French. I speak just one language. I've tried to get really good at it though. Mostly I am, but sometimes I panic and sort of, like, you know...
As for the foreign languages, what like the foreigners speak, I spent five years in Middle and High School learning just enough Spanish so that it can stick a foot in and muck up any attempts to learn any other language for the rest of my life. In five years of classes I learned the same amount of Spanish in school that I now know of French after three hours of listening to a recording in a car.
How much French have I learned? I have graduated from "I will not understand or be able to say anything in Paris" to "I will not understand or be able to say anything in Paris, but it really seems like I should be able to", which I feel is an impressive leap.
Listening to our French for travelers CD I am most surprised by how simple and easy the language appears to be. It's fun to try and speak, like one is making fun of something, but not, which is a very familiar relationship to things for me. It looks like every fourth word or so of French is a great deal like its English counterpart. That's quite a head start and yet strangely useless. "Dinner" in English is like "Dinner" in French, except to say it in French you have to do it while making fun of how French people talk. Just say "Dinner" like you're an exaggerated slightly absurd French person and it comes out just right! "Soup" is like this as well, and a few thousand other words. But then there is an alternate to "Soup" apparently, "Potage", which is familiar from restaurant menus and the eight million food books I have read. And actually there is another quarter of the language right there. All those words I've read, that I've seen in so many contexts, and it's all so familiar!
So I already know half of all French!
Oddly this does nothing for making French intelligible to me. Maybe you have to know 75%? Nevertheless I am thinking it may be enough to be able to make myself understood when I offer simple greetings. At least after a couple of days. I mean, if I don't accidentally say them in Spanish.