Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Making the switch

My French is pretty good now (or so people tell me) but what is still hard is making that switch in my brain. Since I still think in English, and visit mostly English websites and watch a fair bit of BBC when I am home alone, it always takes me a few seconds to process French when I hear it for the first time in a day.

Case in point: I am casually strolling down the street earlier, deep in thought about scrapbooking when a guy stopped me on the street to ask a question. I didn't understand a single word and had to ask him to repeat. He must have thought I was a total dork, especially when once I did understand his question I was clueless and couldn't help. He wanted to know if the tabac, the French equivalent of the corner store that sells cigarettes, newspapers etc., was open. Of course since I'd been deep in thought about scrapbooking when I passed it I didn't know.

This happens on the phone alot as well, no doubt all the telemarketers who call here think they've reached a blithering idiot because I stumble over my words trying to get my tongue to spit out French. But that's probably a good thing cause they then usually give up on trying to sell me whatever and hang up.

I think the worst is when my father-in-law calls. In the beginning he would be patient, speak slowly and even use English. But when my French became decent all that was forgotten and now he rattles off several questions in quick succession while I am still fumbling to orient my brain and respond to the first one.

Luckily it's just those first few seconds or so. Once I do make the switch everything goes relatively smoothly after that. Until I fumble for vocabulary or use present tense instead of past, that is. It's such fun learning to speak a second language!

1 comment:

Veroncia said...

I know exactlly how you feel. I read and write in Spanish almost fluently, but I don't speak it well or understand it well when it's spoken to me. And the problem is that I think in English. Maybe I should try your tactic with the telemarketers