June 4, 2001

Learning a Foreign Language

I've been studying French on my own for about two years. I never had any formal education in it (took Spanish and Latin in high school and college), but since my husband's native language is French, I thought it might be a good idea to learn it. It's not easy. I can tell you the months, and the days of the week, and I can count as high as you can stand to hear me recite numbers. I know the alphabet, and all those funny accented characters that you see occasionally in English (depôt, façade). I even know enough vocabulary to be able to conjugate verbs and put together simple sentences, and I can read at a fairly high level. But there so many words that I see that I don't recognize to make reading anything more advanced than a newspaper frustrating, and I don't have the vocabulary I need to formulate my thoughts in French to have a real conversation.

I was discussing the frustration of learning a foreign language the other day, and I asked my husband how he learned English. He couldn't tell me. He doesn't remember the landmarks, let alone when he accomplished something new. He told me to compare it to learning Unix, but I think I surprised him when I gave him a pretty detailed history of how I learned Unix, starting with a few commands that a friend gave me, to looking up commands on web pages, to experimenting with administrative access. I can tell you a lot about how I've learned French up to this point, but I feel like I need a map to help me. I need logical correlations to file the new stuff in my head, but languages don't seem to work that way.

I suspect the only way I'll really get much better is to move to a place where I would be immersed in French language and culture. That sounds really uncomfortable, so I might break down and start encouraging my husband to speak French with me. I'll have to fight the frustration at having to ask what something means and ask him to repeat himself all the time. I'm not used to having a difficult time learning a new thing, even when it's something as difficult as a language, and PFFT! to it.

On a completely unrelated matter, would some of you out there please consider posting stories or comments? This site is designed to be interactive, to let all readers express themselves and rant about stuff. While we get a few stories every now and then from loyal PFFTers like Mike, Indavis, and others, it would be great if we could get some really diverse stories on here. Also, the comments sections on most stories are empty! Leave a comment. Even if you just want to agree or disagree, please say so. It only takes a moment, and it makes the site so much more interesting for everyone, and makes you feel like you're contributing. I can make any story an editorial, but I get so few that I feel I need to continue to write them myself. I don't want to have to do that, folks. Also, PFFT! Mail is online and works very well. If you're tired of your web-based mail program, and you want to use one where your suggestions would be welcomed, give ours a try.

Published: June 4, 2001
Editor: stacy

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