Language Acquisition

If we were to sit down and make a list of things that drive me a bit mental, near the top of that list would be the fact that I can’t speak French.

It’s not that I expect to magically be able to speak French without any work.  Yes, I could still study it.  My time isn’t up and I have a functioning brain.

Why this frustrates me is that I did study French in school.  For ten years.  And I didn’t slack off or anything – I got A’s.  You’d think that would be enough time and effort to have at least a solid grounding in any language.

Now, I get the “use it or lose it” principle.  It’s obviously sound.  But ten years, even if it was a long time ago, that should be worth something, surely.  People say, “Oh, once you’re somewhere where they speak it, it’ll all come back to you.”  Mais non.  I just went to Montreal, and while I did mostly fine with reading signs, any time anyone spoke to me, I was stuck giving them panicked and helpless blank looks.  It may as well have been Russian.

All those years of studying, countless hours of doing dialogues and dictations and oral exams and on and on – apparently a complete waste of time.  I wish I had known that then.


7 thoughts on “Language Acquisition

  1. oh, this is utter nonsense. it doesn’t come back in a few minutes. give it a little time. write a post in French (You can add a translation). But you are right, it does fade away, eventually…

    • I wish it were nonsense. That was a lot of time I invested. Yes, there is some stuff rattling around in there, because I do seem to be able to read with a decent level of comprehension. But to listen, I’m lost, and to produce, I’m useless.

      Now part of this is that more recently than my French studies, I did learn Spanish, which I think took up the space marked “foreign language” in my brain. Now when I try to say a sentence in French, it comes out at least 3/4 Spanish. But I am stunned by how much I have forgotten as well.

      • Yes, very familiar! When you try even a third language the most current foreign language pops up all the time and interferes.
        But I don’t think that listening to language helps that much. One really has to train speaking, responding in live situations, overcoming the barrier of self consciousness. My wife speaks 5 languages, she says it eventually becomes easy. You have to let go of your self.

      • I found my broken Spanish tendency to be very embarrassing in Montreal. I have a similar frustration that I spent so many hours “learning French”, but really have nothing to show for it. (Same goes for piano, actually.) I do remember thinking that Spanish was easier to learn because of studying French, though…

  2. I also learned french in high school and it was also good grades.
    But after so many years I also can-t speak it anymore.
    But I know if I could find enough french movies to watch, it will alll come back to me very quickly.
    Now here is a thought, right?

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