Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Language lessons

I've been thinking about language and wondering how to ever get fluent in French. Somehow, I don't think I'm ever going to truly get there. But I'm having a lot of fun in the process of trying.

The recent episode was posted on eGullet and was all about crote, crottins & bouse. All words describing various forms of dung in French. Only funny in context when you had a bunch of English vying with a bunch of French to see who could come up with the most dung describing words in their language. I think 'ka-ka' in English was the final winner!

Still they don't teach you these words at school and trying to learn to speak 'familiar' everyday French is not easy. Slang is difficult in any language; just think of the howlers that come up between the British & the Americans who speak sort of the same language. All one can do is to keep trying.

One thing that I have learned over my many years of living in countries other than where I grew up is that trying to learn the local cultures and value systems is every bit as important, perhaps even more so, than learning the local language. Time after time I've seen sympathetic souls with poor language skills more readily accepted in local society than those who are more fluent in the language, but don't try to understand what makes the locals tick.

Thus my piece of philosophical bit of advice for today; when planning a visit to foreign climes study the culture first, then the language.

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