Sometime back I mentioned my efforts to learn French. What I did not mention in my last post was that I live in a predominantly French speaking province of Canada and in a francophone neighborhood. Language learning is as much for fun as for necessity. So yesterday’s clinic visit for the baby’s vaccination presented an excellent opportunity for me to practice my skills in the real world. I decided to not start the conversation with “Do you speak English?”. I dusted off my course material and played the conversation in my head.
I wish I had a victory or achievement to report.
Receptionist – “Bienvennue”
Me- ” Bonjour”……. Awkward silence….. I look at the baby….. Flash a smile…..
“ummm” ……. Tongue tied….. Try again …. “ummmmmm”……. This is not how it went in my mind….
I have been a chatterbox all my life and being at loss of words was a shock to my system. ……. For the first time in my life I understood what my mom would have gone through as a young girl from Kerala in New Delhi with little theoretical and no practical knowledge of Hindi language. May be that’s how she got into the habit of thinking long before speaking…..
Receptionist – “je peux vous aider madame( can I help you madam)?”
” Do you speak English ?”…… Grin!
Yeah, need more practice.
Now I just need to put one foot in front of the other……..taking one step forward after Two steps back may still be making progress.
I borrowed these images from my daughter’s scrapbook. I made this graphic to show her the journey the last thee generations before her had taken and that is what makes her uniquely her.
You could say mine is a multi-lingual family. Bengali, Nepali, Malayalam, Tamil, Punjabi and Hindi are some of the languages spoken in my household. My parents are fluent in 4 languages and so are My husband, his mom and his brother & sister. My sister and her husband know 3 languages each.
India where we have 22 ‘official’ languages and many dialects, it should have been relatively easy for me to have learned more than the two that I know- English and Hindi. Especially since so many were being spoken all around me. Sadly though, I didn’t realize the value of the good thing I had going on until now. So far I have been content to be able to understand a few things from each language and never dug deeper.
Recently I decided to learn French and I enthusiastically registered my self into an online course and joined a local French conversation group. Honestly , I am finding learning a new language a bit difficult. I am realizing that there is a huge difference in how children and adults learn a language and it is amazing to me. It was so much easier to learn to understand Malayalam during the six weeks of summer break without even the little bit understanding of grammar or syntax. “Use it or loose it ” rings as true for grey cells as for muscles.
My progress in learning French has been really slow but I recently stumbled upon this piece about 22 year old Alex Rawlings who can currently speak 11 languages. I like what he said about seeing Afrikaans and Dutch as two very different languages because their personalities are SO different. May be this is what I need to keep the languages separate in my head.
As for my daughter, I hope she would be more curious than I was and would be interested in making the most of her heritage and learn as many languages as she can. I can hope. 🙂
Phir Milenge!! (or as the French would say Au Revoir!!)