Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Learning French by speaking English

In talking to people about how to get around France since it's the only stop on our trip where we won't know anyone and will have to get by with my novice French skills, several people have said that if the only words you know are Bon Jour and Merci, those will get you through. The French use these liberally, even saying hello to the store clerk when they're just browsing. They are also quite grateful for every little thing and say thank you for the littlest of things. It's why they think Americans are impolite. Because it seems we only say hello to strangers if we want something from them.

So I've been learning this French custom by saying hello and thank you as often and as frequently as I can. 10% of a language is probably the actual words themselves. I'd say 40% of a language is saying the language at the appropriate time. And the opening words like hello are the most crucial, it's what begins our connection with other people, it's what allows us to acknowledge another person's existence in our lives even if it's only for 5 minutes at the checkout counter. So if I can use Bon Jour and Merci often enough in English that it becomes second nature, then using it in French won't be much of a leap.

Thank you for reading.

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