Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Lessons learned in local language learning

One of the perils of language learning is the inevitable mistakes. After lunch on Sunday the waiter seemed in no hurry to present us with a bill so Rowan tracked him down, only to inform him: I need to cry...before correcting herself!

Today I was explaining to some of the local people we work with how I might use ‘interesting’ somewhat euphemistically, when referring to something I didn’t particularly enjoy. Words have meanings and then there are the implied meanings.

We’ve found many an English turn of phrase cannot be translated, so we’re busy learning new ways of expressing things as well as a new language in which to communicate. The clock is ticking and I sense we need to be making better progress than we are but the key is not to panic.
I specialise in the deer-in-the-headlight moments, all too often falling into a panicked silence in which not even English comes to my rescue. And if something does float, nonchalantly, to mind it has every chance of being the dregs of my French GCSE or the odd bits of Spanish I picked up a decade ago on the Costa Del Sol.

So we soldier on, trusting that one day we will open our mouths and people will not laugh, look at us quizzically or just say ‘what?’ It is a matter of perseverance and confidence. There are positive signs and we should not belittle them. But hasten the day when we can claim a small measure of fluency.

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