Tag Archives language

A beautiful morning

shrine of mary, veneto
A tiny little shrine to Mary I found in the forest during a walk on Sunday afternoon.

This morning I didn’t run across the park, barefoot, in my pyjamas, chasing a small dog who had managed to pull open the front door and make his bid for freedom. This morning I didn’t put the Italian moka on the stove top, turn on the heat and then get distracted, downstairs, looking at Instagram, only to hear the whoosh as the coffee brewing came to completion, and so I didn’t have to dash back upstairs in fear of ruining my Italian family’s first coffee of the day.

This morning has gone somewhat smoother.

No. This morning I sat on the stool at the end of the breakfast counter, the odd one, the extra one, the one normally reserved for guitar playing, and I sipped my coffee and drew pictures of animals as requested by the six-year-old. He taught me the Italian, I taught him the English.

Now when I’m asked if I speak Italian I say, “Si, parlo Italiano, ma solo gli animali e le vedure.”

I’m getting pretty good at animals. This morning I learnt the name for a kiwi (bird) and a koala. I feel I may also remember them.

Kiwi = Kiwi

Koala = Koala

And now I’m sat out on the veranda, hiding from the sunshine, smelling of sun-cream and listening to the birds twitter along whilst provide the percussion with my typing.

A beautiful morning.

How do you learn a language?

Life on a French farm

“Mon serviette,” the trilingual three-year-old demands from his high-chair.

“Ma serviette,” Grand-meré corrects.

“Mon serviette,” the boy insists.

“Non, ma serviette. C’est feminine.”

“Mon serviette.”

Later on, the grand-daughters are practicing their spelling.

“Onze?”

“O-N-S”

“Non.”

“Z?”

“Oui.”

“O-N-Z-E?”

How do you learn a language?

Not how do you memorise vocabulary, or correctly conjugate verbs, but how do you open your mouth and persuade a sound to come out? What’s more, how do you make this sound loud enough and clear enough that someone sitting at the other side of the dinner table knows you’re speaking to them?

This is a skill that the children have and I struggle with. Everyone at the table is in the process of learning. The children are learning both English and French, the grandparents are improving their English with the help of my frequent but gentle corrections and I’m…

… I guess I’m learning to overcome that debilitating panic that numbs my memory. I’m lost every time I want to ask for something or reply to someone in French. It doesn’t so much matter that I’m stuck in the present tense, nor that I have atrocious pronunciation. I just have to start.

How do you feel about speaking a foreign language?

Mumbling even before the wine

wine

I’m really bad at saying ‘yes please I’d like a glass of wine’.

I’m also really bad at clearly saying ‘no thank you’.

I seem to find all sorts of ways of saying yes or no that don’t clearly state my preference. If you’re good at reading my body language, or you know me well enough to predict my appetite, you don’t need much of a signal to know what I want. On the other hand, if you find my alcohol consumption confusing and unpredictable, you’re going to struggle.

I tell you yes in such a way as to suggest that I’ll drink only if you really think I should, because I wouldn’t have helped myself as that might suggest a need where there is none and it doesn’t quite fit with the dainty feminine impression I’m trying to give out. Like I need to permission to have a drink?

I tell you no as if I’m trying to say that you have wonderful, lovely wine, and I really enjoy your wine, and I respect your culture to drink more than I would typically drink, and yes, I do know cheese and cake and venison and anything else you might suggest tastes better with wine, but I’m odd so I don’t want any right now.

I hadn’t realised I was so confusing. So much conflict to say a simple statement.

Why such a reluctance to forthrightly engage with the question?

And where did I pick this up from?