Thursday, January 19, 2006

Language Lessons

In anticipation of our upcoming trip to Paris, Peter bought a pile of audiobooks in e-format from Today, I started my very own language immersion program, courtesy of those audiobooks and my I-Pod Shuffle.

This immersion program is pushing the poor Shuffle to the bounds of its usefulness. Since the audiobook is just one giant file, it’s difficult to go back and relisten to portions of the dialogue. It would have been nicer to have each chapter or section as a separate track so I could move more easily between them. Even then, the lack of a display would make it a bit of pot luck.

It doesn’t matter too much to me. I’m only using this to get my ears accustomed to the language and to get my brain familiar with the most pressing phrases: excuse me; do you speak English; and where are the bathrooms? Peter studied French in school so he can do the heavy linguistic lifting on this trip. I just want to be able to not embarrass myself.

So, it’s pretty much learning by osmosis for me. I just let the words percolate along as a background process in my brain. The first book I listened to this morning - In-Flight French - began with these instructions: “Best of all, since there’s no reading or writing required, you can just sit back and learn.” Because, you know, reading and writing are SUCH an impediment to learning.

I find these books equal parts soothing and amusing. I like the idea of learning enough to get around independently. I like when I can magically come up with the right words during the reviews. I like the way the books prepare you for any situation while trying not to make you anxious about it.

“Now, you’ll never need to say any of this, but it’s good to keep the following phrases handy:”

  • I’ve been robbed!

  • I can’t find my husband.

  • I can’t find my child.

  • I feel nauseous.

  • I threw up.

  • I want a lawyer

The second book, Fodor’s French for Traveler’s, starts with Lesson One: Approaching People. That made me laugh as I imagined the reasonable-voiced instructor saying things like “Move slowly and carefully. It is important not to alarm the French. Slow, confident movements will gain their trust. Do not make eye contact unless invited to do so.”

The third book, A Spymaster’s Secrets to Learning Language, has been a disappointment so far. Now, I only just started it, but first of all, the guy who wrote the book also reads it and he doesn’t sound like he’d give James Bond much of a run for his money. He sounds like a weedy middle-manager or accountant.

The other thing that annoys me is that he’s spent a good 15 minutes telling me how great his methods are and how he’s going to help me learn languages so much more quickly by changing the way I think about them. Um, great, so teach me already. Less marketing more teaching, buddy. I’ve already bought the damn book, you don’t have to sell it to me again.

I think I might skip the spymaster and just go back to the actual French books. I don’t really know if I’m learning anything, but when the review lady says “Where is the exit?” and I immediately think “Ou est le sortee?” it makes me pretty sure that I’m on the right path.

PS - I will send a post card from Paris to the first person not related to me who can tell me which movie the title of this post comes from. (I've give you a hint - it's a piece of dialog, a recurring joke, in an 80s movie.)


At 19 January 2006 at 22:16, Blogger Lyss said...

How slow are forgieners supposed to omve? And what aboutall of those walking tours?

At 20 January 2006 at 02:38, Blogger Arbusto said...

I cannot figure out where that quote came from. I'm going to guess either "summer school" or "Better Off Dead."

Why would you need to know "I just threw up" in another language. Wouldn't it be self-evident?

At 20 January 2006 at 13:07, Blogger Radio Free Newport said...

I think I'd need to learn:

"Hey Frenchy, where can a brotha find a well-poured pint o' Guinness?"

"Does your bar carry ESPN?"

"For god sake, shut the fuck up -- I had nothing to do with the war in Iraq."

At 23 January 2006 at 01:28, Blogger Career Guy said...

Too late now, probably, but remember Aunt Laurie is a French teacher.

At 23 January 2006 at 06:12, Blogger -Ann said...

Lyss - I think they let you move regular speed, as long as you're not approaching anyone who is skittish.

Arbusto - You are the big winner. It was "Better Off Dead." Please send me your address via email. (Before Tuesday night if you want to the post mark to be in French. :))

Dave - Let me know when you go to France so I can follow along and watch the mayhem.

Dad - I know. AL gave me a few recommendations on restaurants.

At 23 January 2006 at 08:35, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Sounds like fun.


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