I think I might have previously mentioned that I started learning French two years ago with a friend, mainly in protest at my mother’s referendum vote. The problem is that it’s taking more time than I anticipated to be able to pack my bags and live confidently amongst the Parisians, because my brain cells simply won’t play the game and are refusing to respond as I’d hoped. To be fair to me I’m only doing an hour a week, with no homework expected of us, so it’s hardly surprising that we are basically only up to body parts after learning the days, weeks, months, seasons, numbers and a couple of verbs, so as my children keep pointing out, I am basically up to what a five year old child learns at school.
OUI, JE CONNAIS.
LAISSE-MOI TRANQUILLE (YES, OK I had to Google that, but isn’t it lovely that the translation for “alone” is “tranquille”?)
Because I naturally have no gift for languages, I am aware that years of pain and embarrassment lie ahead, I have decided to take the bull by the horns and attempt a total immersion for the month of août (note the French do not put capital letters on their months). It’s the only way that I will ever make any reasonable headway and be brave enough to start listening and speaking in a real life environment.
I have been told that starting a language in later life means that whilst we will never perfect the accent, some of us (not me) might still achieve some level of fluency and it certainly helps boost your mental capacity by challenging your brain to recognise and communicate in different language systems, something that uses different parts of your brain. Apparently switching between language structures helps your brain multi-task – not sure how useful that will be from a large glass of wine to a grand verre du vin blanc, but we will see. Exercising my brain can only be a good thing right? Even if I can’t remember which bit I’ve exercised by the next morning. I have to admit that I am extremely disappointed to discover that I will never be able to perfect the accent – you apparently lose that ability after the age of ten – that was the bit I was mainly hoping to achieve.
So I am now looking at the exercise from a slightly different point of view. One that will help me slowly build brand new brain neurons. Apparently, as we age, we need to do more than a daily crossword to keep our brains active, because whilst crosswords do indeed encourage thinking, they do not make the brain actually faster or more accurate. For that we really need to challenge ourselves. Our own behaviour can change our brains, which means that old dogs really can learn new tricks. So it’s worth me trying to don mon beret et manger beaucoup de croissants et pain au chocolate et du grand verre ou bouteille du vin blanc et rosé tous les jours pendant quatre semaines. I don’t mind that I will return the size of a grand maison, it will all be worth it if it can help fight against memory loss by accumulating new experiences and learnings.
I certainly think that floating around French markets with a baguette and a panaché will surely help improve my woeful vocabulary. Apparently bilingual people tend to make more rational decisions and are more confident with their choices after thinking it over in the second language and seeing whether initial conclusions still stand up (back to large white wine or grand verre du vin blanc) ….I’m never going to get to that level, but willing to give it a go.
So wish me la chance – as I immerse myself in a new language I will be leaving my children to fend for themselves and keep the cat and my plants and our house in general alive. It’s the longest time that I’ve been away from them and I’m worried à props de ma maison parce que j’ai peut-être fait un gross erreur.