1. I thoroughly enjoyed your writing and can emphasize with you and your struggles with French. My husband and I have attended Italian language school in Montepulciano 9 times. Il Sasso is a terrific school with excellent teachers – that's why we keep going back. (Well, the wine in that area is a pretty big draw, also.) But every time we go, I feel that I am starting over again. I'm a former English teacher, and I find Italian grammar much more complex and challenging than English. But by the time we leave after two weeks, we are both pretty confident in a one-on-one conversation in Italian. And we assure each other that we will continue to speak Italian when we return home – but, alas, we don't follow through. Oh well, that gives us an excuse to return to the school and the area of Tuscany that we enjoy so much.

  2. My first trip to Paris with two of my daughters was so exciting. None of us had ever been to a foreign country much less the most glamorous capital in Europe. We had a non-stop flight from LAX. Needless to say we were exhausted. We hit the Parsian streets running…pure adrenaline..and starving. We popped into a beautiful old grand restaurant and the host approached us to ask how many in our party…or so I thought. I had after all two years of high school French under my belt and was raring to show it off to my teenage girls. " Oui trois Monsieur". He rattles off something again. Me.."oui monsieur, trios" with a little less bravado this time. After giving me a disgusted look he rolls his eyes and motions us to follow him. We soon have our menus in hand and suddenly, keep in mind this is probably 15 minutes after we have been seated, my addled jet lagged brain has kicked into translation mode. He had said "hello Madame, smoking or nonsmoking." I really laugh when I think of it now and also think I could probably never make the mistake again because most if not all restaurants in Western Europe are nonsmoking. I am currently struggling with Tagalog. My instructor makes me repeat a new word over and over until perfect…unfortunately it sometimes takes 30 times. She has threaten to hit me with a big stick at times. Ha!

  3. Having struggled to learn French for the last twenty years or so, I empathized with everything you said. I always feel like I leave my confident, competent self back in Oregon when we go to France and take on a new identity–tentative, shy, a little bumbling. At the same time I think there is a tradeoff–when you can't pull out all the nuanced and complex phrases that you might in English, you have to get right to the heart of what you are trying to say, dispensing with the chit-chat and going for the simple and true. I think you do a great job with your blog. I always find it interesting and informative and am filled with admiration for your work. Bravo.

  4. Like me, you must wonder sometimes why you do it! But, we both know it's fun, especially with the food and wine…and the beauty of the area and the people and, for me, hope springs eternal. And let's not forget the good stories!
    Thanks so much for your comment!

  5. Denise, That's a terrific story. I hope you three had a good laugh! Now, you are studying Tagalog?! I had to look that up! I suspect there will be some funny stories emerging from trying out that language! Will you be traveling to the Philippines?

  6. Sue, I spend a lot of time thinking about those very points. And being
    in that immersion course brought both to light. As you wrote (and I
    alluded to) what we think of as our personality is so hard to convey
    without language. As you point out, though, one can still connect with
    limited vocab and lots of smiles, eye contact, and body language. I
    have a close relationship with a female friend in France that relies
    entirely on the aforementioned and, perhaps strangely, i feel closer to
    her that many other people with whom I carry on long conversations!
    it's all so interesting!

    Thank you for your positive feedback, Sue. I
    still use your "Guidebook to the Luberon Region of Provence," now
    dog-earned and stained. Terrific resource!

    For readers who don't know this guidebook, visit: http://www.provencebyways.com/Index.htm

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Susan, sadly the Philipines is not the safest place for Americans to travel to due to Muslim extremist groups. It's heart breaking because The people of the Philipines are such warm and generous people.

  9. Oh, Susan! I feel your pain. In addition to the French pitfalls, I think of all the near misses I have had in Italian and German. In the Cinque Terre I had to be very careful not to order spaghetti with testicles when I wanted the mussels. (Cazze vs. cozze). In Germany, an umlaut makes a huge difference between schwul and schwül. One is humid (ü), and the other is gay/swishy/faggoty (u). A caution to us all to be very careful Makes me wonder what the English versions are…

    This essay made me smile and even laugh at times. Thank you so much!

  10. I'm terrible with speaking even a few words of any language so I try not to whenever possible. 😀

    Karen (Back Road Journal)
  11. Thanks for the nice words about our guidebook, and the link. On the subject of language, a friend and I speak French–mine sort of halting–when I see her in Lourmarin, but when I am home we stay in touch by email–she writes me in French and I write her in English, which she reads without any problem. So I get to be my real self!

  12. Such a beautiful conclusion, Susan: "success is measured in many ways and what nourishes one to move
    successfully toward personal fulfillment, feeling relevant, or just
    plain 'okay' comes from the darnedest places sometimes." A core truth we can all benefit by being reminded of!

  13. Susan, I somehow got "off" your list and have missed your posts, but having just read this one on language learning…it was worth the wait! I have been living here in the Midi for just a few days over a year and my language progress (or lack thereof) is certainly my biggest disappointment. My 68 year old brain is just NOT absorbing French as I had hoped it might and I find myself doing exactly what I know is NOT the way to learn…talking to other anglophones! So many of your observations are the same as mine, only perhaps more eloquently expressed.
    I go to two classes each week and make painfully slow progress, and I find that the more I learn the more mistakes I know could be made and so am more reluctant to open my mouth…the good news is that I understand a good deal more…except those (explitive deleted) recordings on the telephone that want you to chose numbers to push!
    So, I have re-subscribed and will look forward to your next post.

Comments are closed.