Jump to content
Complete France Forum

Hopeless!


Angie

Recommended Posts

I have had 8 years of total immersion and speak far better French than most that I know many of whom have been here far longer, but fluent? And as for fluent in 12 months, well words fail me [:-))]

I am nowhere near being fluent, I understand everything that is written or being said no matter how fast but I have nowhere near the capacity to respond with the same vocabulary, perhaps if people waited 5 minutes for me to think and construct the sentence,but around here you are lucky to get out 3 words before being interrupted.

For goodness sake I am no longer fluent in English, was I ever? I doubt it as I am still learning the language now but sadly losing far more vocabulary than I gain.

I hear the word fluent a lot, its always people who make no effort themselves to learn the language who say "Oh its alright for you, you are fluent", I am surprised and sceptical to read the comment from someone who claim to have learned the language.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 115
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Here's a little anecdote which may illustrate one of the times when listening for gist (or even just listening!) won't help. It also illustrates that "fluency" is indeed a relative term.

I sat at lunch on Friday with six other English people and a Frenchman. The Frenchman speaks a bit of English. The English had, on average, lived full time in France for about 5 years, whether full time or on and off. The conversation turned to a concert that evening in the local church. The concert was jazz. What type of jazz, though? Well, the Frenchman started to explain. it was, he said, jazz in a style made internationally famous by the great Django Reinhardt. I don't know if you've ever heard anyone say "Django Reinhardt" in French, but there were a lot of blank expressions till I pronounced it for them in English! Fluent isn't just about what you can say, you know......
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is a great advantage to have good hearing - or rather a big disadvantage to have poor hearing.

My written French has improved no end - and often surprises French people - but I struggle to have proper conversations as my brain is still trying to work out what was said to me two sentences ago. This can be the case in English, so makes things doubly difficult in French.

My wife on the other hand, with more limited "training", can get into conversations quickly as she has excellent hearing and a very good ear for language.

I believe also that it helps to "think" in French when having a conversation with a French person, if that makes sense. The brain is an amazing instrument which will work better for you if you set it in the right mode. (I have an example of this in relation to driving on a skid pan, but for another thread perhaps.)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had the same problem with 'Mercedes' when I got to France, I could not 'get' what was being said, until someone actually pointed at the car in question.

Another is 'Donkey Shot', that took me ages and ages and ages to work out.

Chancer, after about 10 years in France, we started saying we were completely semi-lingual. Our french not as good as a french persons and never would be and our english was going down the toilet rapidly. And that I suppose was also because of where we lived. The only english we heard was basically one anothers and the consequence of that was our english not being stretched.

I'd find myself going round the houses using ten words in french because I didn't know 'the one' word that said it all and I would think, I used to know an english word, for what ever it was, but I'd forgotten it. Still the case, I have never got back my english vocabulary...... and ofcourse I am losing some of my french now too, because talking to TV5 monde and repeating what is said, is not sufficient.

And I do know brits who have the 'gift' and speak french like a francais and sometimes better. I have no gift for languages at all, english included.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As you say that you do not know what "fluent" means, idun, perhaps it's YOU who's talking ther nonsense-----worth thinking about perhaps, eh?

By fluent , I mean being able to understand everything said and being able to reply and being complertely understood---by French people.

That makes it simple for you, so perhaps you can understand now [:D]

And, I repeat, we were fluent within 12 months.

I am now at the level of the teacher who taught me French A Level-----and she was good and got many of her students to Oxbridge ( my degree is in History so French was just a poor A level attempt for me---tho I passed).

I don't think there's anything wrong in sharing one's own experience on this Site ; nor on giving the original poster a bit of encouragement [B]

You seem to have a problem with anyone who has mastered the language idun-----have you encountered problems : if so, I am happy to arrange correspondence course for a modest fee [:D]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Idun said: And I do know brits who have the 'gift' and speak french like a francais

and sometimes better. I have no gift for languages at all, english

included.

I have no problem whatsoever with those gifted people who speak remarkable french. And the native french speakers on this board, who read and write english better than I do. I  salute them, and their 'gift'.

It was a struggle for me to learn french, yes, I have always said it was, as I haven't got the 'ear' and I knew I hadn't before moving to France. And I remain mefiante about anyone saying that they are fluent in such sweeping terms. Maybe you have the gift RB, I don't know, it may have been tongue in cheek to suggest that you offer me les cours par correspondance, dis donc, as if you could teach me anything, even in jest.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have no problem in saying that there is still considerable room for improvement in my command of French, despite 44 years of learning, a degree in French, many, many years of living and working in France and other Francophone countries and speaking the language daily. Perhaps my understanding of the vocabulary of language tuition allows me to better distinguish between "fluency" and "accuracy", but at least I hope I've reached the stage of knowing and, more pertinently, admitting, what I don't know. Teaching language for some time, I have learned, at least, that telling someone how easy YOU find something doesn't necessarily help THEM. As ANO remarked, it's quite a subjective thing.

I wonder if considering oneself equipped to teach a language after 12 months of living in France is the linguistic equivalent of the Brittany Ferries qualification for electricians and plumbers?
Link to comment
Share on other sites

[quote user="You can call me Betty"]Teaching language for some time, I have learned that telling someone how easy YOU find something doesn't necessarily help THEM. I wonder if considering oneself equipped to teach a language after 12 months of living in France is the linguistic equivalent of the Brittany Ferries qualification for electricians and plumbers?[/quote]

LOL; I was thinking much the same thing. The word 'bumptious' comes to mind.

Sue

Link to comment
Share on other sites

RB, I never said I couldn't learn, I said as if you could. 

The thing is, and it

doesn't feel like you have grasped this, is that for many of us, the

more we learn, we realise the less  we know. It is a sort of being self

effacing in it's own little way and humbled by the the task and enormity of learning a new language, as the OP is finding.

And me, well, it's rather like I couldn't beat Hussein Bolt in a race, I understand full well my own limitations and plod along doing the best I can and get by nicely. But I don't need 'telling' or any suggestion that someone with A level french could 'help me' even in jest. I have french friends who I adore, and are more than capable of giving me a helping hand when I need it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good point, idun and YCCMB! The better French you speak, the more you realise you still have to learn.

I used not to get too bothered about the gender of words when speaking, as long as I got the meaning across, till I discovered what a disgrace it is for French natives to get it wrong. Now I am in near paranoia about it!

I am not sure how one defines "fluency" actually. Maybe it IS, as RB implies, simply being able to keep up with day-to-day conversation -understanding and contributing, but still not passing for a native. As opposed to being bilingual, which to my mind means that you would be taken for a native of whichever of the two countries whose language you happened to be speaking.

So where does that leave those of us in the middle ground?

Angela
Link to comment
Share on other sites

[quote user="Patf"]My "best friend" was just talking to me about this yesterday. She's lived here since 1990 and worries that she still can't carry on a decent conversation with the locals.[/quote]

I've lived here since 2004 and I think I'm going backwards. In the early years, we were out and about and socialising with French people but now we're working, OH is working with French people but I'm running a cd'hôte solo with many of the guests Belgian, Swiss, Dutch, German - as well as French... I find I'm using the language less now than I did 5 years ago.

French tv is very useful - especially French tv with French or English s/titles - but I only have chance to watch a few hours of tv a week... plus the obligatory Bienvenue Chez Vous. [:D] French radio doesn't work for me because my mind wanders - with English-language radio too, for that matter - listening to the Archers omnibus online takes me about 3 hours because I keep forgetting to concentrate. [8-)]

French books are good too - but I fall asleep within 2 pages of starting to read, same for English-language books.

I plan to become fluent in about 10 years when I retire. In the meantime, I need to get rid of my vache espagnole pronunciation. [6]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I must have been in France about 3-4 years when my real declic came. We were watching TF1 lunch time news with Yves Mourousi and he was rabbiting on as per usual. I realised that I had understood every last word and he had not actually said a thing of any consequence or importance. That realisation was important to me, as I had really believed I was missing out........ and I wasn't.

Even then, I could hold conversations with neighbours / locals /anyone. As when we got to France I had to grasp the bull by the horns and just go for it and if I made mistakes tant pis. And I would speak to anyone about anything.

Don't worry Loiseau about getting the gendre wrong, apparently everyone assures me it is part of the 'charm'. I'm told my accent is mignon too, but I have grave doubts about that.

We are ofcourse forgetting cultural differences here. Just being able to speak does not get to the âme of a french person,  how they see the world and feel about life. I think I 'got' that by osmosis, but that is just me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

[quote user="idun"]

We are ofcourse forgetting cultural differences here. Just being able to speak does not get to the âme of a french person,  how they see the world and feel about life. I think I 'got' that by osmosis, but that is just me.

[/quote]

Good point Idun, that's what I try to do too. I'm really fond of a few of our neighboring families, and I want to understand what their values and priorites are. So I listen and try to empathise.

Language is part of it, but not everything.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's cynical NH, and I don't think it is true. I was always far too interested in 'life' around me to feel like that about it. And life is life with it's variety and all it's colours, sauf one, as 'rose' it was not[Www]

I do agree that the news in France or the UK is the same old rubbish, however, usually from different angles.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

[quote user="NormanH"]Once one has a reasonable understanding of spoken French it becomes clear that it is just the same old sh1t but in French.

That is when the holiday ceases..

[/quote]

By extension, Norman, that could be a reason why your attempts to generate interest on aspects of French news or French life don't set the forum alight. Same old s***, but in French. 'Twas ever thus.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thought Norman meant that when you get talking and listening with them you find they're not that much different from us, similar worries and problems.

So instead of being "on holiday" in a foreign land it's more like home.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I said, Pat...same old..but in French.

Anyone want my "holiday"? So far I've shifted about four times my own body weight in garden waste, lugged 75kg of pool salt and 25 litres of javelback from the shops,cleaned only half the house, mown two lawns,fixed a French friend's laptop, sorted an animal welfare problem (or referred it to someone who can) taken the winter cover off the pool, Karchered a vast area of terrace.....

That's just week 1. Imagine how miffed I'd be if I was only here for a fortnight!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Betty, you seem to have not got this quite right [:D]. Someone we know always has a week with his mates to get the house ready for the hols and at the end of the hols, they'd go back for a few days to prepare the house for winter. Worked well for years and years.

And I have to disagree that it is 'same old' but in french. I just find the the culture so different that even if the problem is the same, the way of looking at it and perhaps how to solve it are usually diverse. Probably those 'republican values' has a lot to do with it as well.

I know that NH tries to get threads going about France, and I am very interested in many of the things he has posted, that there would be just two of us   that are interested, papoteing about LBF isn't how I see a board working. Bit of a sad indictment of this board though and sometimes makes me wonder how everyone else lives their lives and what they are really interested in. I cannot help but be interested in where I live. It is part of my nature.

And for all I don't live in France anymore, my son does, some of my best friends do, and all our income comes from France, we have the strongest of ties.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a newcomer to Forum, I'm beginning to get the idea of how it works :

Someone like Mary asks a perfectly good question about improving language ability. People give her different views for her to digest........all fine so far........

Then, we get posters who have about 30,000 postings between them who just carry on talking a prop row of..........

very little [:D][:D]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, at least you got the hang of it and popped back with your valuable contribution to the "very little"!

It's a fairly normal thing in forums of all kinds, unless they are policed by the Gestapo, that, once a reasonable selection of appropriate answers have been posted, and sometimes before, there is likely to be a little (or large) drift away from the original topic. In this instance, the discussion appears to have drifted from speaking the language, to understanding it, to how this affects one's general understanding and empathy for wider cultural issues and differences. I guess that you don't find that discussion relevant or valuable, which is your absolute prerogative. However, if all discussions are "capped", then regrettably there will be progressively less discussion, and any forum where that happens will slowly die.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...