I stumbled onto Steve’s blog through a link from ted.com… and after an hour of looking around, watching a few of his videos, etc… I’m thinking that maybe I can share a bit of my first thoughts.
My wife and I moved to France about 4 years ago… we live in a tiny little village (300 people) on the island of Corsica (near St. Florent, if you’re interested).
Mine is kind of an interesting story, but in a nutshell, we decided to come here because my father was born in this village and I figured it might be a way to get to know more about him. (He died when I was young.) Needless to say, he did not speak French (or Corsican) when I was a kid, which is a shame since he also spoke a few other languages…
… Anyway, what I’ve discovered is that learning French is not something that “just comes” even by being here. Part of the problem I have is that my job is internet-based, and I find I’m constantly thinking and writing only in English. Since we don’t speak French well, we have very few friends… and so that means we’re not out and about having daily discussions in French with different folks, etc.
So I am wondering if anyone has some advice. It does seem a bit odd that we’re living here surrounded by French people, yet I’m struggling to learn. My wife is doing very well, as she appears to have a natural gift of language learning. Me, on the other hand, have a gift of forgetting everything I’ve heard 2 seconds after hearing it.
I do have some family here (lots of cousins) so when we go out to their houses for dinners my brain tends to “shut down” after a few hours of constant French talking… it’s like suddenly a switch gets thrown and poof I can only think in English from that point onwards.
Any advice? Is this normal? I didn’t speak a word of French prior to coming here, and now I can at least have basic conversations with people… but I still feel like I can barely speak. Is it perhaps because I’m a perfectionist and compared to a native French speaker I’m an infant? Or is this normal in the process of learning, where you get to a point and realize how little you actually can do? It’s extremely frustrating, and I’m just about at the point where I want to pack everything up and go back ‘home’ where I can have easy conversations with friends/family without having to fry my brain.
We also have two kids now, one is 2.5 years old so she’ll be starting Maternelle in September… and I’m paranoid the teachers are going to treat her poorly since we speak English in the home and our daughter doesn’t speak French like the other kids. (She goes to the creche two days a week, so she knows some French, but certainly not like she speaks English…) I’m very concerned she’s going to have a difficult adjustment in September.
Or perhaps, it might be good… and I can grab her French textbooks and learn from them since they’ll be designed for kids! haha…
Sigh… sorry for just throwing up all my thoughts here…
Thanks for listening.