14 February 2010

More Than a Toe...

Well, it has been more than a *year* since I dipped my toe in the "French" water (now known by me as "l'eau"). In that time, I've been collecting books and movies set in France - I have even read a few of the books, and have seen some of the movies :-|

The biggest step however, is that I am taking French language classes at the Alliance Francaise! I just finished a Level One intensive class - it was 4 days per week, 4 hrs per day, for 4 weeks. Whew! The great news is that I passed!!!! I was worried about this - the classes are in Costa Rica, where I now live, and so any explanations that couldn't be done in French were done in Spanish. My Spanish is sufficient for living here, but not always up to snuff for understanding "concepts" - especially French concepts. Luckily, the professors also knew English, and when I got into jams, I could clarify (fortunately this only happened a couple of times). Perhaps the funniest situation (but frustrating) was when a fellow classmate noticed my confusion, and explained something in Spanish - I couldn't say "yes, I understand, but how do you say it in French?" (well, I could have, but I only understood what he was doing after the fact).

Learning my second "foreign" language is opening my eyes about how I learn. All my training and schooling up until now has been focused more on knowing how to figure out something, and knowing where to find the information needed to do that. Memorization has been *very* low on the "importance" scale. Well, guess what! Now I need to memorize - a *lot!* I've also come to realize that a lot of my personal enjoyment of books and movies comes from seeing nuances - I like to (almost need to) know every word that was said in a movie, and often re-read passages in books. I like to think about alternate meanings for sentences, and look for subtleties. That can be a *huge* drawback for learning a new language! At least in the beginning stages - it may be that it will help later, but for now, I need to consciously stop that hamster on its wheel in my brain.

One thing I am curious about, and expect to see - how much Spanish will I temporarily lose as I learn French? There were so many funny things that I couldn't remember in English when I was intensively studying Spanish - like my brain couldn't think of "baking something" - it was suddenly "ovening something." Well, I start my level 2 French class this week - but only 2 days per week, for 2 hrs per day. So, vamos a ver...

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