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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Parlez-vous Francais?

At one time in my life, I was close to fluent in French. I was able to read anything put before me. I could understand 90% of what was said to me. I could respond coherently 75% of the time. This is not braggadocio; it is fact. Today, I realize those skills, honed over twelve years of study through elementary school, high school and college, have sadly atrophied. I am disappointed that I let those abilities lapse. The thought of retooling them is intimidating. However, I am up for a challenge.
I was last in France five years ago. My verbal skills embarrassed me quite frankly. Inexplicably, I could still understand most of what was said to me, however, my responses were, at times, comical to even me. For example, a translation of some well-intended statement might be,
“Will we be attending yesterday’s party if it rains tomorrow?” Oh, if only the earth could swallow me. Trust a Frenchmen to feel the correct prononciation was more important than even content. I was openly tutored in dialogue by children, redressed by verb choice by strangers, and prodded by my French friends to express my thoughts fully – even it meant they had to prompt vocabulary that was locked somewhere in the deepest vault of my mind. Just as in school, my saving grace was my literary ease. I could read newspapers, menus and signage. I just went shocky when I had to call for a cab on my own. Oy! The telephone. If making myself understood in person presented obstacles, the phone was the Great Wall of China in communications.
Part of my overall self-improvement campaign this year involves addressing this weakness. I have a three-pronged solution. First, I have written a friend in France to ask her to send me the title of a popular book that she thinks I might enjoy reading. I will slowly, with dictionary in hand (I actually still use my Larousse French-French Dictionary, maybe it’s time to think of using the online version?.....) begin the laborious task of reigniting the dormant language part of my brain. I will order the title and work my way through.
Second, I perused various French language programs to purchase. I went with the Pinsleur Approach. Intuitively, the way it is taught seems well-adapted to the way I learn. Finally, I am watching ticket prices for France. I would like to go next June. I have an invitation to spend some time outside of Paris as well as at a friend’s summer home several hours south of Paris. That’s the Big Ticket incentive to improve my French. If that fails, there is always Montreal.

If you want to learn, too: http://www.pimsleurapproach.com/

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