Wednesday, 11 December 2013

speaking in tongues

This morning we went to buy wine for Christmas. We had to endure a drive through frosty deserted roads, under clear blue skies, through beautiful countryside and picturesque villages to the Gaillac vineyards . We had to wait while a call was made to the men in the vineyard for someone to come and open up the "cave" but we stocked up on wine and got a free bottle and complimented on our French speaking skills. On our way back we were counting our blessings along with the bottles!

The main difficulty with  living in foreign parts is of course that these foreigners insist on speaking a different language to the mother tongue. It is also one of the advantages though as learning a new language gives our aging brain cells constant exercise and challenge.

Every compliment I get on my French skills delights me and boosts my confidence. On the other hand our friend's daughter, 9 year old Elodie, keeps me from being smug  as she delights in correcting me and giggling at my pronunciation so I know I've a long way to go! I am at a dangerous stage too - often French people see that I understand something and hear me respond then assume I am fluent and off they go at full pelt leaving me listening to what could be outer Mongolian for all that I understand. Then there are the times I set off on a discourse only to find I have dug myself into a linguistic hole which can end in nothing but a total collapse into blithering idiot.

In November we organised a French/English evening along the lines of a celidh. TC managed to enlist musicians to play in a multinational "All stars celidh band" and I called traditional English and French dances in French and English to an audience of English, Dutch and French. It certainly was the biggest linguistic challenge for me  to date but I survived, the dancing was great fun and the musicians left asking when they could play together again.

I must have passed some sort of threshold though. During our last visit to England in November I found myself explaining how to use the coffee machine in a cafe to the customer ahead of me - she was somewhat bemused - I was speaking in French!