Discover more from The Unravelogue
Chat chasse lézard hangar queue cheval ours dents.
Cat chase lizard shed tail horse bear teeth.
Let’s explore language. When you connected with the scene above, your first response was wordless n’est pas? Nor did you imagine it was 38 degrees when I took that photo, here in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, for the 3rd week running. The heat occasionally makes me funny dans la tête, and the world is delirious. Indulge me and I’ll set the scene some more. A lizard shed its tail to distract the cat and make an escape, which keeps on wriggling and I wonder why we domesticate an animal then let it torture the wildlife. The neighbour’s golden stallion knows well its electric boundaries and is intrigued by the cat, but I wonder if knows people eat horses and “When grapes turn to wine, they long for our ability to change.” (Rumi) . In my distractions, I’ve recently knocked one or two things over with the back of the van, no damage done but don’t tell anyone. You try blind-reversing a 21ft tin-can down a long narrow drive with concrete planters in the middle! I could continue with this… but how much data in the letter ‘I’? 010101010101010. Oh la la…
“Learn the lingo” they say…
Alors. Remember the whole class reciting French verb conjugations over and over in a reluctant, monotonous anti-choir? “Je suis, tu es, il est, elle est, vous allez, nous allons… lalala”. I credit a little bit of today’s confidence out in the street to those years of programming, and my numbers are excellent! Confidence is the key to communicating in our first language and this is an obvious, but often overlooked fact when learning another. According to Chomsky’s Universal Grammar Theory, after all those years of repetition, I should have good grammar, but schools have walls and it’s thankfully over. Now here I am, deep in France, with no need at all to impress the boulangier with a silver-tongued syntax when asking for a baguette complète or booking an appointment at the doctors or talking to the landlady about the gas running out. Nor is it necessarily an excuse, or lazy, to assume most people speak better English than us English visitors speak French, as in my experience, even in rural areas, it’s usually true. The fact some French people have known I’m English so speak English before I open my own mouth, is an interesting case in human relations in itself. And some of the most endearing and amusing moments have been when I’m not just learning what we both mean grammatically, but who, how and what we both are, and that’s co-creation.
If we accept that talking is basically a byproduct of making friends (or enemies), asking for food, help or making a trade, these spontaneous moments of life are creative and beautiful. We risk overshadowing them by desire or need to fit in and be accepted, in this case, by using the right grammar. A friend pointed out it’s bit like autistic masking. I think it also looks clingy. What drives that need or desire to do ‘fit in’ is different for everyone and for every interaction. And everyone has a translation app in their pocket now, right? ; )
Learning a language can be immensely satisfying, using it in a successful way, when we make genuine connection with the ‘even more other’, even more so. We need to be wary of learning rules over absorbing the language in a meaningful way, which could hinder spontaneity and the flow of natural connection. Acquisitional learning in natural ways is crucial to any learning programme and this is why there’s simply no substitute for reaching out, alongside formal learning, lessons or self-tuition. App-wise, I’d recommend a combination of conversational approach eg. with Pimsleur and grammar based prog like Duolingo. Obviously, nothing compares with immersion in real situations, backed with listening (audio and movies etc) and a bit of reading - the 80-20 rule could apply.
It’s said that communication is 70 to 90% non-verbal, and our nuanced meanings and concepts such as in friendship, familiarity and love are delivered through facial expressions, body language, even androstenol and pheromones, where diverse cultural and social boundaries are embedded and transferred in cosmic relational spaces, beyond boundaries and across borders...
… which brings me back to that special word confidence. I’ve experienced very interesting and dramatic differences in my French language capability. On occasions when there’s social pressures, heady people, distractions (tiredness, hunger, noise) or concerned with accuracy and making an impression, we will struggle in our first language, naturally. Knowing what I need to actually say, when my listener is also creating space for a certain relaxed connectivity, therefore confidence arises relationally between us, I can deliver fairly long sentences in French. It’s certainly really pleasing when I’m understood, and even congratulated, because I am being myself with another.
Travaillez sur votre propre confiance et votre compassion, respirez profondément et tendez la main à un ami.
Work on your own confidence and compassion, take a deep breath, and reach out to a friend.
You might find more love and connection than you previously thought possible.