Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Lost in translation
Every so many years I buckle down and learn something new. For example, in recent years I threw myself into sailing. The physical part of sailing is pretty easy: a stick in one hand and a string in the other. Other things like navigation and marine law take some serious study. With the basics of all that down I've been restless to immerse myself into something new.
. . . or something old, as the case may be. Throughout the course of my life I've been exposed to the French language. Northern NH, where I grew up and live, is right next door to Quebec so has a lot of people who speak the language. Unfortunately, it wasn't spoken in my household so I only picked up a smattering of the local dialect. The thinking at the time was growing up bilingual would hinder learning English. Since English was the language of the land is was more important to know that. Now we know the best time to learn a second language is while growing up, but it's too late for me.
I tried to learn French in high school. With three fourths of the class growing up speaking French at home I had a huge disadvantage. In my other subjects I was near the top of my class. In French I was an idiot child holding the rest of the class back. After two years of French I learned how to pass the class without truly knowing the material. Remember back in the day when two years of a foreign language was considered a minimum for anyone even thinking of college?
So now after all these years I'm getting serious about the language again. Thanks to the Internet it's a lot easier to study a language than when I was a teenager. Currently I'm using Duolingo. It's available as an app on my tablet so it's convenient to use. Right now the hardest thing for me is to unlearn the things I learned wrong.
Another great thing is the ability to stream audio and video over the Internet. I'm listening to Montreal radio in the kitchen and Paris radio before going to bed at night.
I've a deadline, of sorts. My lovely wife and I should be getting our passports in a month or so. Quebec is a short drive away. However, that's not the only place I expect to use it. My long term goal is to sail the Caribbean. There's a number of French speaking countries in the region so it would be nice to have a better grasp of what's going on. In those other coutries I'll have to rely on my wife's high school Spanish. Good thing she was a better language student than I was. Then there are those pesky islands that speak Dutch. Hope they don't mind a lot of hand waving and grunting.
Even my current poor command of the French language has proven handy. I can read it better than I can speak it. Just being able to understand a menu is a good thing. Nice to know if you are ordering beef or snails. My smattering of French has also helped me in deep Cajun Louisianan. It's like talking to long lost cousins.
One good thing about learning at my age. I'm a lot less self conscious and I can laugh at my goofs. Being able to laugh at myself I never lack for entertainment.