Saturday, 3 July 2010
I am a lifelong language learner, just because I like it. I am currently having a pop for half an hour or so each day (a different one each day, natch) at the following: Alsatian - probably will never speak it but it is widely spoken around here and I like to understand what I hear; Japanese - formerly interpreter standard now slipped back to intermediate level and it is my favourite language to speak; Russian - that was my degree, a long time ago, I can still speak and understand but want to pick up fluency and vocabulary again as I have Russian colleagues and friends; German - was a beginner when I came here but am slowly picking it up, we are 5K from the border and go shopping in Germany and the grammar is fab; Latvian - still at elementary level but I want to progress for the day when I realise my dream of a summer cottage on the Baltic coast in Latvia; Korean - I used to be a slow speaker and a good reader and would like to get back there for the sake of my ageing brain; Greek - total beginner but it is for my dream of living in Cyprus. All of these I do on my own, either with my ancient Linguaphone tapes (the Linguaphone method is excellent but cassette tapes are really annoying) or with Eurotalk, which is highly recommended by me, you can get them either as CDs (nice games and visuals) or MP3. Oh and French, in which until now I was never fluent apart from one summer long ago when I worked as an au pair in Brittany age 19. That I do once a week in a class kindly provided by my employers and once a week with a private teacher hired by me. I am at advanced level now but I doubt I will ever stop, because French is HARD. This is not to say how fab or clever I am - most English people are over-impressed by fluency in another language - just to say that everyone can learn a language, because we all have. And it is not true that children learn more quickly. They learn more slowly in fact. Almost all children take at least two years from birth to acquire reasonably fluent speech with a vocabulary which will meet their needs, and another ten years or more to acquire the vocabulary they will need for the rest of their lives. And they do not have much else to do for the first few years. And most of them have adults around them who spend time, often hours and hours a day, helping them to learn. If they don't they will be seen as dysfunctional by the time they start school at five. But an anglophone adult who comes to live in France with no French can become fluent enough for everyday life, social occasions, the TV, dealing with bureaucracy (I promise you this is necessary) cultural awareness and so on, in about six months, if they spend about an hour a day making an effort at it and if they have some kind of teacher (which can be a CD). And that is apart from the time they spend at work or doing whatever else they do. Some do not learn the language because they are too lazy or too scared. But never because they cannot. So you CAN. Try it, you might like it. And it is as good a brain gym as sudoku or puzzles.