A friend of mine posted an article, How to speak Franglais, which so reminded me of my life these days. The article is about a man, Miles Kington, who wrote a magazine series that taught French through the use of “Franglais.” The article is written in his delightful mix of French and English that butchers both languages in a way that is unpretentious and immensely unintimidating. It is like learning French from your crazy aunt who can’t doesn’t know English well enough to keep her French out of her English– or maybe like learning French from your crazy Mom who doesn’t know French well enough to seamlessly describe every situation? Always speaking a language that you are yourself still learning means that you default to the occasional English placeholder, though this situation is improving day by day! And French being the language of motherhood I often throw French phrases into my English. (I am still a bit disappointed in myself that I am that person, but it feels less pretentious and more silly when it is just what bubbles up when I get so excited about my baby’s cooing and is usually a pet name for his gros bidon.) I am glad that someone found this to be an effective way to teach French!
I realized this week that I need, pretty seriously, to get some input and feedback to my French beyond my gurgling baby. I realized that I have been falling into incorrect use of a few false cognates. I know better when I stop and think about it, but when I am talking to Nelson while he avidly protests the latest diaper change or 30 second delay before his declaration of intention to nurse and actual nursing, somehow those things fall by the wayside. I am scared that we will get to a place where I am speaking some pigeon creole approximation of actual French that only Nelson and I speak. Like those languages twins sometimes develop between each other. Or how the laws of physics are different in a vacuum.
I realized that sitting around reading children’s books and singing children’s songs really isn’t what will benefit either of us most. So I’ve switched gears a bit. I am now reading more grown up books, and where I can get them books designed for language learning (the ones with nifty tricks like bilingual text, or translations of more unusual words). I am also doing grammar exercises, and lots of them. It is extremely strange, almost surreal, to do grammar exercises aloud in sing-song French. But it also accomplishes all the things I want to accomplish– happy baby, more proficient (though maybe more grumpy) mommy.
I also realized that my written French has entirely gone by the wayside. And as much of a pain as it is to write in French, I really shouldn’t let that happen. So I’ve set myself a goal of writing at least 5 sentences a day in French. Modest, but it will get me somewhere. I’ve been playing with lang-8.com as a way to get corrections on my writing, and really I should start writing my French friends and relatives again.
I figure I probably have five or six months to brush up before he notices that grammar drills are ridiculously boring, even in motherese. Hopefully that is enough time for me to figure out le conditionnel!