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24 April 2013


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I understand. I feel different speaking in English.

Hi Corey, I do not speak French. Except for a few courtesy words and greetings, goodbye.

I have mentioned it here and there, but I'm an American living in Zurich. Which is a tough place to learn German since they speak Swiss German which isn't even a written language. I took a German course (too soon, I might add; I was still dealing with homesickness and being a fish out of water) - needless to say it did not go too well.

My husband does great in High (Standard) German - and I rely on him in all Government/Official settings. And I can speak "Tarzan German" - forget about grammar, I have a decent vocabulary of words. Without articles, tenses, etc. :-)

Sorry, long intro: I am commenting because I so relate to your last bit in this post, about not sounding like yourself. I understand so well -- when I do attempt to speak German, I hardly recognize myself. And it is very weird.

And humor? Forget about it.

Still, I feel blessed to live here and enjoy this lovely lifestyle and beautiful country, even with the language difficulties. I'm thankful for my life.

Thanks so much for your blog -- I really enjoy it.

I spoke book Spanish for years. I can still follow, if spoken slowly, but words get tied to my tongue when I try to speak. When I was very young, I spent a lot of time with my Norwegian Great Grandmother. She spoke her native tongue and English with a heavy accent. I understood her and could speak Norwegian. After she passed, so did my language lessons. I really wish I had continued to learn languages. I think it exercises the brain and trust me, mine needs exercising! :)

Why did Yann not want you to switch to French?

Oui! I speak freestyle French, with perfectly improvisational rhyming bonjours and toujours. In other words I fake it.

Question for you - do you dream in French or English?

Well if you feel your French is still bad after being married to a Frenchman and living in France all these years I guess the French language DVD and headphones I just purchased wont help me sound like a native. Zut alors !

I love that you are serious about speaking French now. I imagine that it is easier for Yann to speak to you in English than to speak patient French to you.
I used to speak passable French, but now when people speak to me in French (my daughter works at a French restaurant with real French people) I just nod and smile. I don't understand anything.

after 30 years of marriage and english being our native tongue, i want to go back to our first year when we were getting to know each other through the language of love where all things were possible..

Hi Cynthia

I dream in both, and think in both as well.


Because he is use to speaking English to me. And it sounds weird to speak in French, and it is funny, and it seems odd and it doesn't feel right, and it is this, and it is that and he is a poop sometimes.


Kudos to you for deciding to speak only French with Yann! (Does he still speak French???) ;-)

Languages are a many-splendored thing, especially if you have more than one mixed up in your brain and in your heart. There are days when I try to reach in one language drawer, and two wrong ones open and snap at me while the third one hides out in the corner. I really really miss not living in an English speaking world anymore. I felt that most deeply when I happened to find myself in the middle of a happy St. Patrick's Day crowd here in Vienna and suddenly heard all those longed-for noises.

Soon French will become the new normal, Corey.
You may miss English, though. Happens to me, suddenly I feel like drowning in a sea of words.

I know enough to get along when in France. My husband thinks that he speaks French. But when not in use, of course, you start to loose your language skills. Rodger would like to speak only French to our grandchildren. I applaud your wise actions in assuring that your children are bilingual. Travel tip while in France if you do not speak French...ask if someone speaks Spanish, many French people do speak multiple languages. Yes, this only works when you speak Spanish too!

Having a second language is a great thing. It is like having a key that opens the door to another world.

When I visited Madrid and Barcelona, there were few English speakers. But I was able to communicate with some people in French...I guess that is a common language to learn in school there.

I lived in France many years ago and for the first six months I was there I would stop daily to buy a baguette, here is how it went:
Me: Bonjour,une baguette s'il vous plait.
Madame: Comment?

Really? For six months? On the other hand the little grocery store owners were more than kind from the get go.

I envy your children being fluent (and unaccented).

I had 2 years of French in high school and can't recall hardly any of it!! But there you are, my mother spoke German and I had no interest in learning that either....maybe the French Canadians around here give lessons :)

My friend, who's a bilingual Spanish teacher and speaks six languages herself, said it's called codeswitching when you switch between multiple languages. But that most people, once they've established which language they communicate with the other person, rarely codeswitch. So since you and Yann have been speaking English to each other for decades, even though you can both communicate just fine in French, it's already established that the language you speak to each other is English. Funny how our brains are wired that way.

I flunked 2nd year French due to a teacher not liking me. The next quarter, I took German from a different teacher. He said I answered test questions perfectly--in French. Merci beaucoup M. Wagner! That has not stopped me from learning more French little by little.
Now I find myself speaking French occasionally to bilingual friends and translating French wine labels for my fella.

I am so excited for word wednesdays! Great idea, Corey!

Love the idea or Word Wednesday as I would love to speak a second language. I have taken Spanish when I was growing up and then when I took a French class I kept mixing up the Spanish and the French. Oh Dear! How I would love speaking French. It would be a good excuse to visit again.

Oh how I wish I could speak French. But you have to have someone to practice with. Took French in High school and college. No practice so it's gone. Learned to speak Spanish first. Therefore it is etched in my brain. Luckily I get to practice daily in Tx. Yes navigated well in Provence speaking Spanish. Excited about Wed word.

I have visited India, Brazil, Costa Rica, Sweden and France and don't speak Hindi, Portuguese, Swedish, Spanish (well..some)or French! Luckily, I was traveling in those countries with someone who did speak the language, except for Costa Rica, where I could use my Spanish. In Paris,where a great percentage of the population learns English in school, it seemed we could always find someone who could speak English. What a shame that we don't take time to learn the other beautiful languages of the world! So little time. Before I went to France my friend and I did pick up a set of language CD's. Problem with that is that if you present yourself as knowing a little French, you are answered with French phrases that are nothing like you heard on a CD! Presenting some really funny situations! AND, they speak so fast it's too hard to follow. Some can learn languages easily and some cannot, it's all the way the brain is wired. Kudos to all who are bi-lingual!

I've always tried to learn the language of any country I visited and have to say French is the most difficult and oddly, German and Dutch, the easiest. No clue why. Although I think having to study over 6 languages in grade school and high school were of no help at all.

I knew French before I met my French husband: in the U.S. we spoke English and now in France, we speak French to each other - Chouette!

The story of my life - only that Hero Husband (non, Mari Magnifique!!!)speaks French with me and it's me who is speaking 'out of my language league'...
When we both are too excited to speak slowly and/or (and often more importantly) want the other to REALLY understand, we speak English because we both have a tremendous E vocabulary, whereas I often can't find the 'proper' word in French and HE doesn't speak German (SWISS GERMAN...) well enough to grasp my eloquent (lol) talking to him. Aaah, the choice of 'International Marriages'... (even if they both are, like us, from the same country, Switzerland - with FOUR languages and umpteen dialects which even we don't understand).
Great post - merci ma chérie

Really it's the same with learning all languages, the problem comes when you are in the country: They speak fast !

Ah, ça, c'est une décision !!!
Je sais que tu parles bien le français, donc tu vas très vite prendre tes marques, aucun problème !!!

A story of mine:
Two old English friends of mine(a couple)were France addicts. They used to tour this country every now and then without speaking one single French word. They would communicate with hand language and travelled happy.
One day, while visiting us, Walter asked me what he had to say when getting into a café or a restaurant, not to be mixed up with words of meals. I told him not to get bothered with meals, all he had to say was "une table pour 2", and, according to the time of the day, they would be understood. He was thrilled with the tip and off they drove to the south.
On their way back to England, they stopped again, and I asked them how it went with the phrase. Walter winced and replied: "The phrase worked out well, but the problem is that after saying it, a hundred words would flow back to us, and we were lost !"
Using this phrase made people think they were speaking French fluently !!!

I love this post! I can't wait to hear more because I would love to speak another language (I have a smattering of what I call "restaurant French/Spanish/German)and wonder how it is to just be thrown into another culture where you simply must learn. Keep talking (french OR English)!

Corey, I love this story. I am tri-lingual, English being my third language and may I say, it was just darned hard to learn. Do you know there are 7 different ways to pronounce "ough"? Read or read?... and the list goes on. The funniest story though, in college, I was taking Logistics to get out of taking another math... and struggled a bit at first. My professor, a delightful lady from Spain, says to me... you are a foreign language major.. this is a foreign language.. duh duh duh!! Sailed through after that. I dream in French, or German or English. I think in the same language I am hearing or speaking (I am sure your kids do also)... so I hate translating! My mother who is German, learned proper British English in school.. it was not unusual to hear us speak with both German and English in the same sentence! Bonne chance!

I am from a German community in Iowa. Growing up, my family spoke only German to me and I answered back to them in English. When I was in my teens, I met someone who spoke French and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard. Altho' I did not go on to learn French (it wasn't offered at my school), I sent my daughter to a French Immersion school. And since they had French amity aides from kindergarten on, she even has a beautiful French accent when she speaks. I feel that giving her the French language was one of the best things I could have done for her. This summer she'll be living in Paris for 8 weeks... and living my dream.

My niece's mother is Taiwanese and she speaks fluent English and Mandarin. It is amazing to hear her flip back and forth between the two. Like your family, each parent spoke their native language to her. She would never think of speaking to her father (my brother) in Mandarin --which he reads and writes fluently! Me, I can read most Latin-based languages (probably all that time in linguistics classes), but I long to have the fluency in French and Italian like my grandparents.

Good luck Corey - it's time for you. When I learned French in high school I found I did so much better when I thought in French too - at first my thoughts were very small though!
Two of my brothers have mixed language families, one did not succeed with bilingualism, but the other is doing an amazing job - it really is a gift to your children, but also to you I think. I can't imagine having a child that couldn't speak my language fluently - that would be such a strange thing to know.

1. Miaou
2. Pipi de chat
3. Je voudrais plus de thon s'il te plaît
4. Si tu me touches là, je te mordra
5. Je suis entouré d'imbéciles


I empathize, because of my years of effort to learn Portuguese, which I read well but still speak rather haltingly.

Folks, Corey is being falsely modest about her command of French: To my slightly tutored ear -- I have a rough notion of what French is supposed to sound like -- she speaks her adopted language very well and with a convincing enough accent. She's a real pro in the shops, conversing with the merchants!

As for improving your French diction, bonne chance! I'm sure you'll be a great success at it.

J'aime M. Purrkins!

French was my third language.

We were Czech immigrants when I was plunked into a kindergarten in Buffalo in 1970. I couldn't, wouldn't, speak in class for 3 months. Not one word. It was agony. (my first spontaneous words, uttered outside of class and after a gap of 18 hours since my last meal, words of utter desperation, were "eating! drinking!" while pointing to my mouth). But one day during the fourth month, I opened my mouth and spoke fluently.

French came during the summer between grades 2 and 3, when we moved to francophone Quebec City. Although I learned a fairly fluent French then, and went on French training for work to catch up the niceties of grammar I had never studied (we are required to be fully bilingual), I don't feel like I really "got it" until a year or two into our life in Geneva. I was thrilled when shopkeepers would puzzle over where I came from, and tell me that I have only the barest trace of an accent, but that it isn't Canadian. At that point, I started being "me" in French; occasionally switching over to French in my head instead of translating. I think the French me is actually quite close to the Czech me, and somehow, it works. I'm afraid that I am losing that though since we have moved back to Canada...

I too am proud that our kids are fully bilingual, and unaccented. I was thrilled when our daughter was learning German when we were in Switzerland, but am sad that I can't manage to teach them Czech.

(And speaking French with Pierre is just weird, and he refuses to do it, so I am amazed that you are keeping it up with Yann)

J'adore Henri le chat noir! Merci de l'avoir mentionné :-)


I asked my daughter if she feels different when speaking in Japanese, and she said, "yes, and I think I act differently, too!" So, I asked her if I seem different when speaking Japanese, and she said that I do - that my weird sense of humor doesn't come out as much. Ha!

I was so blessed to live with a very gregarious host family for my first year and a half here, I really learned to speak in context, which is my excuse for being horrible at translating. I can know what a word means in Japanese, use it correctly, but still take 5 minutes to figure out the correct translation of it into English! Very frustrating. I envy people who can translate!

My husband and I spoke our own languages to each other when we started dating. I was very self conscious about my Japanese back then, and he understood English better than he could speak it. Boy, did we get a lot of stares! After marriage I realized that my husband listened to me much better if I spoke Japanese, so I switched. It was weird at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly.

The day I decided to speak French after a year of living with my husband in France, being demure, agreeable and quiet, my mother in law nearly died from shock and delight ! twenty five years later, I still have an accent, but am told that it's most attractive !!!!!......Still swear in English though. And count.

Dear Corey ~
You are so wonderful! I am so thankful for you and for your writing. May God bless you and your always!!

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