Tag Archives: language

Americans in Paris: 2006

After leaving Guam in June of 2005, we began a new journey towards the other side of the world.  But first, a pit stop in Monterey, California to learn the language of love, le français.  My husband and I went to school just like our kids from 8 am – 3 pm Monday through Friday for 6 months.  The  differences were my husband and I lived, breathed, and dreamed in French 24/7 for those 6 months, AND I still had all of my mommy/housewife duties too.  Everyone tried to chip in and help, but overall, I was stressed out with wanting to be the perfect French student, mom, and wife. 

Miraculoulsy, we all made it through those 6 months and packed up all our household goods to be shipped overseas to Paris, France.

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Theeey’re Heeere

If you entered our house right now, you’d wonder what country you were in.  There is a non-stop mix of Swedish, French, and English in the air (and the occasional, “Oops, that’s Spanish, not French!”).  Our (adult) Swedish friends speak English.  And their oldest daughter, who is 11, has been learning English so can carry on a conversation in elementary English fairly well.  All three of their children speak French (as well as Swedish, of course).  All but our youngest son can carry on a decent conversation in French, although he speaks as if he is fluent.  He likes to French-isize English words.  It’s quite funny!  And I keep bringing Spanish words into the French conversations.  So it will be interesting to see the interactions when we go down to the farm in Florida tomorrow where no one speaks anything but (southern) English.  After translating back and forth, my head should be spinning by the end of each day!

After they arrived yesterday, we did our best to keep them awake (their time zone is 6 hours ahead).  I took them to Wal-Mart after dinner.  The kids decided they wanted to see the costumes and each found one they liked.  And I wanted to get just a few grocery items to sustain us today and of course candy for tonight’s ghouls and goblins.  Our refrigerator looks so empty everytime I open it.  But we are leaving tomorrow for a week, and I don’t want to leave anything to go bad.  Not something I want to deal with when we get back. 

I’m off to finish a Red Riding Hood costume and make sure everyone else has all their parts and pieces for tonight. 

Happy Haunting!

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Yo hablo. Sie sprechen. Nous parlons.

There are almost 7,000 languages in the world today.  Wow.  After Chinese, English is the most widely spoken language.  That makes it easy for us English-speakers; we think we really don’t need to learn another language.  We are required to take a language in high school.  I took Spanish, and I don’t think I could hold a conversation with anyone hispanic at all.  I could point and grunt one- to two-word sentences, I think.  Buenos días!  Cómo estás?  Gato.  Blanco.  Hasta la vista.

When it was time to attend war college a couple of years ago, my husband got to choose which one he preferred.  Most go to Rhode Island (Navy) or Alabama (Air Force)… He, however, is a big language nut.  He can say, “It’s a beautiful day!” in more than 20 languages.  He has been all over the world, thanks to the US Navy, and has always tried to converse with the locals.  So, he chose L’Ecole Militaire (the French War College) in Paris.  But before we went, we got sent to beautiful Monterey, CA for 6 months so that he could learn French first.  When we got there, his class consisted of only 5 military personnel, so they asked if any spouses would like to attend as well.  So I got to go to “work” with him from 8 – 4 every weekday and learn French too.  It was one of the most stressful 6 months of my life.  We have 3 school-aged children who are used to having a stay-at-home, volunteer-at-school, help-with-homework mom.  I was a I-have-to-study-too mom for those 6 months also.  When we arrived in France, however, I was a most thankful mom to have learned the language.  Granted when I spoke, they knew I wasn’t a local, but they understood me, and I could have a decent conversation.  And I think I still can.

We decided to put our children in a bilingual school in Paris, as opposed to the American or International schools that a lot of others did.  We wanted our children to learn the language as well.  Half of their courses were taught in English, the other half in French, so they learned French fairly quickly.  French K-12 schools are tougher than most American ones.  (When you get to university level, it’s the opposite.)  From what I can tell, most European children begin to learn a second language at the elementary level.  And it’s not half an hour a week.  It is a regular, everyday course. 

Right now, we are having a small tug-of-war with our kids’ high school.  We are trying to convince them to move our freshman daughter up to French IV from French II, as we didn’t know until her older brother took French II there last year after first arriving back to the States, that the level they took in France was much higher than we thought was parallel with US language class levels.  After he suffered (from boredom) the first semester, we asked his teacher to move him up to level IV for the second semester.  She wouldn’t budge, so he suffered (from boredom again) in French III.  Last year, they offered only French I year-round in the middle school, so we encouraged our daughter to take it just to keep her French alive.  She was bored beyond belief, but it was her easy A course, I kept trying to convince her.   This semester she has a different teacher than her brother did last year, and the teacher is noticing that our daughter’s ability is beyond the French II level.  So it may be a little more promising this time around.  On verra…

With the hispanic population increasing in the States, I am finding Spanish might become a little more helpful.  So I have decided to brush up on my “second” language and am taking a course at the local adult learning center.  I often find myself saying a French word instead of a Spanish one, but it’s not as hard for me as it is for some of the others as there are a lot of similarities between the two languages (and the back of my brain is gradually opening some locked filing cabinets from 20 years ago).  I may never use it, but I am having fun. 

Es un día bonito!

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