dinner with friends, foreign language acquisition, happiness is, here i am, like a train on a track, speaking French
I have an audition at 10:30 this morning, and while trying to kill time I found myself thinking, why don’t people update their blogs more frequently so that I have something to read on Saturday mornings? And then I thought, well, why don’t I just update my own blog? So here I am.
It’s funny–I’m finding that now that I don’t have to speak French, all I want to do is speak French. Isn’t that just the way it goes? It gives me almost the same endorphin rush as singing does. No matter how tired I was before I started speaking French, I forget all about it while I’m speaking French, and then afterwards I crash because speaking and processing all that French is exhausting–as I have written about many, many times in this blog.
The other night I had dinner at my friend Cristina‘s apartment. Cristina, whose mom is from Spain and who has spent a total of three years in Austria, speaks Spanish and German; her roommate Amanda knows Spanish (if I’m remembering correctly). We were talking about foreign language acquisition, and it occurred to me that the French I speak now is practically a different animal from the French I spoke before living in Paris. (Sometimes I can’t even believe that I lived in Paris. But then…
…me and the Seine. Carry on.)
Anyway. When I think about the way I spoke French before Paris, it really is a whole other creature. My accent, though good, was clearly American; by the end of the last year, people had to ask where I was from. (It was always obvious that I wasn’t FRENCH, but I was once told that I spoke French like a German. Which is funny, because if you hear me speak German, it sounds a lot like French. Also, one of my proudest moments in summer 2010, when I was in Périgueux, was that time when I was crossing the street near my dorm, wearing sunglasses even though it was drizzling, and a Frenchman told me it was too dark for sunglasses, then asked me if I was British. I was like, oh, bless you.) I find myself inverting questions (“La métro, elle est où?” “Tu viens d’où?” as opposed to “Où est la métro?” and “D’où viens-tu?”), adding shadow vowels to the ends of words where there is no reason to add a shadow vowel, rolling my uvular R’s (because I CAN—take THAT!) and saying things like “Bah ouais?” and “Ah, bon?”
And yet, a couple of weeks ago as I was leaving a temp gig, a woman stopped me on the street and asked me for directions in what was clearly (to me, anyway) French-accented English. I gave her directions in English. What was I afraid of? That she wasn’t French and I would make a fool of myself if I spoke to her in French? That my French would betray me and I would give her wrong directions? (I suspect my directions weren’t so good in English either.) I told myself that she had asked in English, and if there was anything I hated while I was in Paris, it was speaking to somebody in French and getting the response in English. So English it was. But as I walked away, I was kicking myself for missing an opportunity to speak French.
I decided over Thanksgiving that I needed to put more things into my life that would make me genuinely happy, and speaking French is one of those things. So I need to make time to go to the French-language meetup group downtown, and I think this week I’m going to try the Tuesday conversation group at the Alliance Française. And if any of my Chicagoland friends who read this want to hang out and speak French together, I am totally down. Just let me know.