Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Language learning

Learning a new language is a funny business. For most of people, it's a long-term struggle.

You will have to start with the basics, feeling like a baby, repeating the same sounds and words over and over again in an attempt to store them in the front lanes of your mind. When you are an adult and need to think for thirty seconds before proudly coming up with a "hello", then notice that no one can understand you because you did not pronounce it properly, well, you might be tempted to give up.

But don't: next step will be very rewarding, when after weeks or months of forcing vocabulary and grammar rules into your brains, you'll actually be able to communicate with someone else but your teacher. There is nothing like ordering your first coffee in the language you're trying to learn. Thoroughly enjoy that part, because it will be followed by a time when for one rule learned, you'll find out you still need to go through a dozen of other ones. When after being able to easily understand the texts provided during your classes, you'll try to have a look at newspapers, and give up after checking ten words per sentence in your dictionnary...

But step by step, word by word, you'll make it. Past a certain level, learning will become easier and easier, and you will be able to efficiently communicate. Don't expect to ever speak it as your own mother tongue; except for rare exceptions, that is never going to happen. After learning English for 15 years, getting an A at the top level English for foreigners Cambridge exam, and practicing every day, I am quite certain you have already guessed I am not a native - and that's only from writing. But eh, does that matter ? If you can express yourself and understand what you're told, that's what you want. And you'll enjoy every word coming out of your mouth for you will know the exact price of it.

Today, I ordered a coffee and a sandwich in Finnish. We're still practicing pronounciation at the beginning of every class, but I can make easy sentences, catch a "anything else ?" coming out at light speed, and understand the price. I'm trying to thoroughly enjoy it, as I know the worst is still to come, but let me be proud of myself for a change.


  1. Exactly! Perseverance, perseverance, that is the key!

    I like the "Mitä muuta?"..."Ei muuta kitti!"

  2. I am proud of you, Nathalie.

  3. Jockbatt: aaaaah, c'est ça qu'il fallait répondre ? Je me suis contentée d'un "ei" avec hochement de tête énergique, ça a marché aussi :-P

    Mark: that means a lot to me. I haven't given up on writing, I just wasn't so much in the mood... I will, I will, I will :)