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How My First Language Meetup Showed Me I did NOT Forget my French

2014/05/14 Leave a comment

The WorldDid you really forget that foreign language? I share my first language exchange meet-up, that led to over 2 and 1/2 hours of French!

You haven’t spoken one of your foreign languages in some years. You come upon a situation where you are made to try speaking it. The words are slow to come, some seem forgotten, and you’re barely putting together cohesive sentences. You sound like an utter beginner, so you conclude what you’ve been suspecting: you’ve practically forgotten the language.

But have you really? That’s what I believed about my French, until this experience showed me otherwise. I haven’t spoken anything more than a few random sentences of French for over 6 years. I have not EVER spoken French for more than 30 minutes – and that was only once; 10 minutes was probably my usual maximum. I have, however, listened to French an hour or so, such as watching TV, but that was also rare. More details on my French level here. I thus considered myself unable to speak French anymore. The first half of this post will be a re-telling of that experience, and then I will use it to answering that question.

Language Meetups

I’m sure it’s not uncommon to hear of groups that get together once in a while for for special interests such as sewing, debates, book discussion, and so forth. It’s definitely a nice idea for anything that needs cooperation or when one is looking for people with the same interests. But have you ever looked for or gone to any for a subject of study? What about languages? Do you use Meetup.com?

I feel like traditionally, news of these spread by word-of-mouth, but now in the age of the Internet, these can be announced and found online. This is also the case for language study. One of my language exchange partners and now good friend from Hong Kong tends to go to many meet ups for various languages, and although they may be hit or miss in quality, she’s had enough good experiences to lead her to continue going to them. Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months.com, and other polyglots, have praised the value of meet ups. Benny Lewis has said that most of his language practice actually comes from non-native speakers. Considering that non-native speakers can still help teach and correct each other, perfection is not important for communication, and that languages may have more non-native speakers than native ones, you may realize the idea of practicing with non-native speakers is not something to belittle.
1st words learned graphjam

Because this can also happen when you trust the wrong native speakers

Finally, I can speak of my own experience, when I went for my first French language meet up.

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French is Funny and it can be a Restaurant

2012/04/22 Leave a comment

If I started this blog as early as I wanted, I probably would have been able to write more like I expected to. Instead, this second half of the semester has been pretty rough so I’ve not been able to write much. I’ve got quite a few posts drafted though, so I’ll post them in time.

Today I went to dinner at a local quality French restaurant called the Blue Heron. This is arranged by the French teacher at my university as she always does an end-of-the-semester dinner party. I’ve gone at least four times now. I took advantage of this to give myself a French day, so on my drive to and from the restaurant I was listening to French radio using my TuneInRadio app on my smartphone. No Beijing Teaching Radio for today! (That’s my usual station.) I listened to both a news channel and a public broadcasting channel but both were talking about the same thing: candidate campaigns and elections. I ended up listening for a total of an hour and 10 minutes.

For the first 3 minutes or so, I had to put in some effort to understand but I soon got over that and was able to listen to it relatively casually. I was still missing a few words but I understood enough to tell you almost exactly what they were saying. I’m glad to have seen that my listening comprehension hasn’t gone down too much. This was again proven at the restaurant as I understood almost all the French that was spoken.

Something really interesting that happened was that after about 10 minutes, the sounds of French just suddenly….struck me. Especially as I was checking my pronunciation of a few words, I somehow, suddenly, found many of the sounds utterly hilarious. Ok I didn’t burst out laughing for several seconds, but I did burst out audibly and had a couple of laughs. Some of them didn’t even feel 100% subjective, such as a thought I had that the French I’s sounded extremely high in the mouth, potentially higher than anything else I’ve heard, and that struck me funny as well. After a minute or so of these mini fits, I made myself pull together. This never happened before and I’m really surprised it happened now and with a language I’m so familiar with. It’s hard to see it as just a weird fluke in my mood though you never know, I guess. But why was it? Had I been away from French for so long that a weird reaction was just waiting for me? Does my Chinese study have any role in this?That actually could be a legitimate thought because studies have been made that show how different languages sound funny to different people depending on their own native language(s). What about other learned languages? Not sure, and though I’m sure all this would be very interesting to me, it’s really not important, so, i guess I’ll never know what this was all about! Unless it happens again.

Now, since this post is too positive, I’ll add another little detail. I understood the radio for all that time, but when I asked the owner / chef what was available to drink – I totally went blank on the word for drink! Only until I finished my order in English did I remember it – and I kicked myself for it!

Categories: French, Journal Tags: ,