Aisling O’Loughlin’s New Beau Is Encouraging Her To Learn French

by learn a language journalist

The French are losing their patience with me. It’s nearly three years now and my French remains at Leaving Cert level. D minus at that. I actually got a B. Honours for those asking, whatever that means anymore.

False hope. It should have been a D minus. Learning off your French verbs by rote will only get you so far. The Frenchman says I understand when the mood takes.

He may have a point. I got reprimanded at Christmas for carrying out a conversation in English, just one to one mind you, but enough to irritate a Grande Dame.

Probationary period over. It’s time to speak French. But how? All that comes out is ‘quack quack’ when I try to express myself beyond ‘Ca va?’ Some kind of karma I imagine. For a wan who always liked to have the last word.

A terrible trait for sure. Never said I was a saint. Now I don’t have the first word or the middle word, let alone the last word. Manuel from Fawlty Towers keeps coming to mind. ‘I know nothing’. It’s kinda liberating. Say it like you mean it. I KNOW NOTHING! God that feels good. Grade me on that. A1 Honours. There’s a score worth framing for the wall.

Still there are hints of progress. Barely perceptible but promising. I overheard my two older boys concoct a tale about how they were going to pretend to be year older than seven and nine. They’re trying to impress a 10 year old girl. The thing is they were speaking French and I understood and they understood that I understood. Sprung. No more secret language.

I suppose I should get French lessons, like Emily in Paris, to get beyond the blank eyed nodding and mewling. Nah! I’ll keep going with the Osmosis Method aka Ignorance Is Bliss. It’s got me this far. The real barrier is limited thinking. Like the belief your brain is too rock hard after 40 to learn something new.

Why do we tell ourselves these terrible stories? Dismantling them takes awareness and reconditioning. Of course your brain is perfectly capable of re-wiring with a bit of effort and steady focus.

There’s a better belief. It’s amazing what you learn when you change your perception. Pillow talk helps too. And not taking offence when corrected.

It’s the only way. Like the word simple, spelt the same in both languages. I used to pronounce it ‘Sawm-ple’. Thanks to some gentle guidance, I’ve tweaked it to ‘Sahm-ple’. A triumph in the University of I Know Nothing. The simple things indeed.

Watching Netflix in dubbed French with the subtitles on is also good for exposure to the language, although maybe avoid The Matrix if you’re already feeling paranoid about The Situation.

I came out the other side of that one with a twitch and a strong desire to wear an ankle length coat and oval sunglasses.

The thing is, ‘Ca vaut la peine’, it’s worth it, being Manuel, being the butt of the joke without understanding the connotations, the quacking in response to questions.

It’s all worth it, little by little you get there, and in between you learn to be quiet and listen. No last word, just humble silence.

This content was originally published here.

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