Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Speak French?

“Do you speak French?” people ask me when they find out we spend up to six weeks in a village with few English speakers. “I do not speak it very well at all” I answer, “But eat it and drink it quite proficiently.” While that is not all true. I am getting some nouns and verbs lined up in approximately the right order and can purchase baguettes, croissants and coffee very well. And Martha has an expanding vocabulary and facility with conversation. The truth still is that I am not fluent.
And there is something to be said for the value of not being fluent in the language of a country. Not being fluent means I do not understand the radio or TV (unless it is a sporting event, and then the commentary does not bother me). Not being fluent means I do no read all the advertisements and read all the papers. Not being fluent means I can walk through a crowd or sit through a meal and not know all the nuances of conversations both trivial and profound. Not being fluent means I have about me a “cone of silence” (was that from “Austin Powers?”) that allows me to think thoughts through. Not being fluent means I really listen to Martha and am not distracted by errant words or voices. They all act as wallpaper to my thoughts or conversation with Martha and the few others who speak English. Not being fluent means that I can write this on the front porch while the noon-time news blares from a radio and I’m not distracted.
While I would love to become fluent in French so I can get to know more of our neighbors and friends in the church and navigate my way better through the country, I am enjoying this sabbatical of silence. It’s pretty nice!


At 11:18 PM , Blogger Isaac Johnson said...

"cone of silence" comes from the campy spy tv show "get smart". I just saw the new movie bearing the same name staring Steve correl (daily show, the office). Fun movie, see it when you get stateside.

At 10:25 AM , Blogger Kate said...

I remember how strange it was to come back from Europe Semester and be able to understand everyone again. It was overwhelming, I didn't know how to tune out other people's conversations in coffee shops and in town once I could understand their language again. There is something beautiful about being in another language - it's humbling and quiets my mind!


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