Je Ne Parle Pas Français

5th March 2010

So, one of the items on my Mighty Life List is “Be conversational in seven languages.” I studied Spanish for years, and I think language really shapes how I think. Knowing another language besides my native tongue has given me an alternate way of looking at the world. Knowing Spanish specifically makes me sometimes want to cry when I hear a guitar playing at night, and makes me more willing to be the first one dancing at parties. That could also be the tequila of course, but I digress.

When I first made my list, some part of me thought the simple act of writing things down would magically make them happen. Like once I realized that I wanted to pick blackberries and make pies, I’d just find myself passing blackberry bramble on a walk one Sunday with a bucket in hand.

As I’ve started to cross things off, it has genuinely surprised me that I have to plan fun. I guess some part of me thinks that fun will just happen, even very specific types of fun, and that I shouldn’t have to actively put aside time for that stuff.

It took around three years of lessons before I could get the gist of most conversations in Spanish. So if I start now, it will be about fifteen years before I can cross off this goal.

On Wednesday night, I got started. Verizon is sponsoring French classes with Bryan, which we’ll be attending until we can speak French. I’ll keep you posted.

Merci beaucoup to Verizon Wireless for sponsoring my Mighty Life List and helping me achieve my dreams. They’re making my site more interesting by helping me cross off few more goals, and they also gave me a Palm Pre Plus. One that completes calls. Thanks, guys.

22 thoughts on “Je Ne Parle Pas Français

  1. Kim

    Hmmm. Perhaps fluent in French, on my life list, was a bit ambitious. I like your idea of mastering ‘conversational’ skills.

  2. Katie

    I foolishly took French in high school and once I was in college, decided to switch to Spanish. That didn’t go very well at all. So I switched back to French and in my last year I was in a very small class of about 10 people and there were 3 other Katies in my class, no joke.

    My professor was extremely good and had us speaking only French throughout all classes. Once I finished, I felt like I finally had a conversational grasp on the language.

    Bon chance!

  3. Bachelor Girl

    Oh, Maggie. You’re so awesome.

    In college, I wanted to double-major in ballet and French.

    My parents wanted me to major in subjects that, at the end of four years, might net me an actual JOB.

    They won, but I still like to try to read in French.

  4. Jen

    I love french! I took it for 4 years in high school and by the end was moderately decent. The problem is I haven’t used it since then. I then moved on to Spanish which I’m not so great at.

    My life list includes be conversational in french and in spanish. I have to admit everytime I am part of some interaction in either French or Spanish and I can understand some portion of it I get that little jump feeling in my stomach. Being able to interact in another language makes me feel somehow connected to more people.

    Good Luck with your lessons, Maggie. I am sure you will love french just as much as I do!

  5. Miss B

    If you are looking for a French-speaking country to visit in order to help with your conversational skills, make it Switzerland!!! Seriously (and I am not biased because I lived in Geneva for a year back in my wasted youth and that is why I am fluent in French) — but in and around Geneva, they speak a bit slower than they do in most large cities in France, they over-pronounce silent Es at the ends of words, they don’t have a weird or twangy or overly-clipped accent. So…plan a trip!

  6. Jan

    Once you’ve mastered French, here’s another language you may not have thought of but I bet you’d love: American Sign Language.

    It’s a full blown language of its own, with its own vocabulary, grammar, syntax, idioms, etc. More and more high schools and colleges are offering ASL classes for the “foreign” language credit, despite what the A stands for. In a large city like where you are, I’m sure there are always formal classes being offered as well as less formal classes that are sometimes taught by interpreters at places like the Y, Easter Seals, deaf-services agencies, etc.

    I bet Hank would have fun with it too. Little kids seem to soak it up like sponges. It’s like a secret code to them or a game.

    Just a thought – bet you’d love it.

  7. April

    French and Spanish are so similar, in roots and verb bases, that it shouldn’t take you long at all. I know a bit of French (vocab, not really conversational) and it helps me decipher Spanish words I don’t know. You’ll do great!

  8. DiaryofWhy

    As a French teacher, this warms the cockles of my cold, cold heart. Students who actually WANT to learn French–what a novel concept!

    Bon courage, ma chère, et amuse-toi bien. :)

  9. Kat

    So proud of you, darlin’! One of my goals is to learn French, Cajun, and Creole.

    The Cajun and Creole will be a little bit harder, I think. And I may never be conversant in either, because they are dying languages. But French, I can definitely learn.

    Exciting! :)

  10. Nicole

    Wow- 7 languages is ambitious. On the otherhand, I see friends of mine who move to a foreign country for work and just throw themselves into it, resulting in what looks like pretty impressive language skills at the end of a couple months. OK, that might not include knowledge of the written language and they probably couldn’t manage much in the way of philosophical debate, but the basic day-to-day stuff is covered. It seems like the key is just using every word you know, every chance you get, and never getting embarrassed. Also, I’ve heard that Thai is fairly easy to learn (and if you lived there a year, you could knock a couple items off your list in one go!)

  11. Kelly

    While in Paris, some ladies stopped my husband and asked him a question in French. His response? “Parlez-vous francais?” They laughed and moved on…

  12. latenac

    Bonne chance! Be patient. It will actually be a bit harder to pick up French after Spanish b/c French has more grammar rules than Spanish does but be patient and it will come. Ideally you should learn French or Portuguese first and then Spanish and Italian are easy to pick up. But I’m nitpicking. I also found for conversation people in France are very patient with people making the effort. So you should definitely play a trip to France to practice. I read somewhere once that English is a language of specificity and French is a language of essence. Which is why Shakespeare used dozens of names of flowers in his plays and Racine only used the word fleur.

  13. Maile

    Good luck with the languages!

    I have 3 years of French, and 2 of Italian and Russian. Plus trying to teach myself German and Latin…

    Most days I have problems with my English… I should get out my Schoolhouse Rock DVD and work on my grammar.

    On the plus side, I can understand everything on the menu at a French or Italian restaurant! Just don’t try to talk to me

  14. Isabel @AlphaMom

    “When I first made my list, some part of me thought the simple act of writing things down would magically make them happen…As I’ve started to cross things off, it has genuinely surprised me that I have to plan fun.”

    Totally agree.

    We respect our schedules more than we do our to-do lists.

  15. Marisa

    Bonne chance Maggie!! I am currently learning Portuguese and would suggest you add it to your list of 7 languages. Once you know Spanish Portuguese is a breeze (well, kind of :)

  16. Émilie

    Bon courage, la chance n’ayant rien à y voir. Persévère et tu réussiras. Le français est une langue difficile mais merveilleuse. Et n’oublie pas que pour faire une immersion dans la langue de Molière, tu peux venir à Québec (pas Montréal, ils parlent trop anglais),pas besoin de traverser les océans!

  17. Allie

    …”I have to plan fun….” isn’t that the truth? Isn’t life better when we realize that we do not have to wait for chance or others to make our destiny exactly what we want from it.

    Happy Monday Mighty Girl!

  18. Emily

    My husband and I are also learning French so that one day in the distant future we can take a trip to Paris and not sound like dumb American tourists. We’re using the Rosetta Stone series and I have to say it’s really great. After 5 years of Latin in high school, this is far more intuitive and I remember vocab quicker.

  19. Sheri Bheri

    I agree with Emilie come to Canada to practice your French! Quebec City is SO beautiful, you would love it. They have a Festival D’Ete in August – that should give you enough time to become conversant, eh?


  20. Aisha

    My friend saw the title for this and said, “I don’t speak French.”

    “Yeah, me neither.”

    “No, that’s what it says.” I just felt that I should share this. :)

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