I'm currently reading When in French by Lauren Collins, and I'm really enjoying it. It's a bit of history, a bit of memoir, and a lot of discussion of language acquisition--so it's fantastic. 

I just thought that I'd include some statistics in the most recent chapter of this book: 
  • "Only 18 percent of American schoolchildren are enrolled in foreign language courses, while 94 percent of European high-school students are studying English."
  • "In 1906 Congress passed a law precluding citizenship for any alien 'who can not speak the English language.' (According to the 1910 census, this amounted to 23 percent of the foreign-born population."
In WWI, these pledges were circulated to schoolchildren: 
 
"I love the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. 
I love my country's LANGUAGE.
I PROMISE: 
1. That I will not dishonor my country's speech by leaving off the last syllables of words:
2. That I will say a good American 'yes' and 'no' in place of an Indian grunt 'un-hum' and 'nup-um' or a foreign 'ya' or 'yeh' or 'nope.':
3. That I will do my best to improve American speech by avoiding loud harsh tones, by enunciating distinctly and speaking pleasantly, clearly, and sincerely:
4. That I will try to make my country's language beautiful for the many boys and girls of foreign nations who will come to live here:
5. That I will learn to articulate correctly one word a day for a year." 

Collins succinctly summarized the state of language acquisition in the U.S.: "While learning a foreign language is considered prestigious, acquiring one naturally is stigmatized. We think of foreign languages as extremely hard to learn, but we're incensed when immigrants don't speak English perfectly." 

Lately, language acquisition is on my mind (especially as I continue to volunteer in a community ESL program). It is frustrating that the same antiquated ideas are still circulating in the minds of many Americans, and that we are only just beginning to realize the toxicity of forced monolingualism. 


Are we ready for my first bilingual Dreamwidth post? I'm so excited! Herein lies the account of the few hours and classes that I spent with a French student my age, provided in both French and English. I'm hoping that one day I'll be able to look back upon this post and smile, as I'm smiling now. 

La Nuit Précédente / The Night Before
Demain, je pourrai parler pour le premiere temps avec une personne française qui a le même age que moi! Il visiterai notre école pour des heures, parlerai avec ma classe de français (et nous sommes cinq filles, ehehe), et il suivrai des élèves à leurs cours. Il ne parle aucun anglais, et c'est son première visite aux États-Unis, alors je suis enthousiaste et nerveuse que je pourrai parler avec lui. 

C'est possible que je vais pouvoir faire des traductions simples (je n'ai jamais fait ça!) si quelqu'un qui ne parle pas français voudra chatter avec lui. J'espère que je pourrai lui comprendre en écoutant. :') Je pense qu'il pourra me comprendre (tant que je peux souvenir des mots correctes).  

Tomorrow, I will get to speak for the first time with a French person my age! He will visit our school for a few hours, speak with my French class (which is myself and four other girls, ehehe), and follow some of us to class. He doesn't speak any English, and this is his first time to visit the United States, so I'm excited and nervous to get to speak with him. 

I also might get to do some basic translation (which I've never done before either) if anybody who doesn't speak French wants to chat with him. I'm just hoping that my listening comprehension abilities allow me to keep up with him. :') I think that he'll be able to understand me (so long as I can think of the right words). 
 
 

Après Tout / After Everything
Maxime (l'élève française) et moi avons passé une bonne journée ensemble! Je n'étais pas avec lui toute la journée--seulement pour deux classes. Pour les autres heures de cours, il a parlé avec les autres classes de français (des autres niveaux). Quand c'était juste Maxime et moi (sans les traductions de mon prof), nous avons eu des difficultés avec quelques-mots (spécialement moi). Mais si je ne pouvais pas m'expliquer, il disais, "C'est pas grave." Et avec cette phrase, j'avais la confiance de parler plus et plus. On a mangé le déjeuner ensemble (et avec des autres élèves dans mon école qui étudient le français) et il est allé avec moi pour mon classe de calcul (cette classe s'appelle "AP Calculus BC" en anglais, mais je suis pas certaine comment on l'appelle en français). Il a compris plus que moi. ::) 

Aussi, dans ma classe mathématique, je lui ai demandé comment on prononce "grenouille," et je lui enseigne le mot "squirrel" en anglais. C'était très marrant d'entendre comment il a prononcé mon nom (parce que c'est difficile de prononcer avec un accent français) et aussi "squirrel." 

Dans l'ensemble, c'était vraiment fun et éprouvant, mais il valais l'effort, et on a ri beaucoup. 

Maxime (the French student) and I had a good day together! I wasn't with him all day long--only for two classes. For the other classes, he spoke with the other French classes (some other levels). When it was just Maxime and I (without my French teacher to translate), we had difficulties with some words (especially me). But if I couldn't explain myself, he said, "It's not serious." And with that phrase, I had the confidence to speak more and more. We ate lunch together (and with some other students in my school who are studying French) and he went with me for my Calculus class (this class is called "AP Calculus BC" in English, but I'm not sure what you call it in French). He understood more than I did. 
::) 

Also, in my math class, I asked him how to pronounce "grenouille," and I taught him the word "squirrel" in English. It was very funny to hear how he pronounced my name (because my name is difficult to pronounce with a French accent) and also "squirrel." 

All in all, it was really fun and challenging, but it was worth the effort, and we laughed a lot. 
 

Well, I'm pretty chuffed with this first post, and oh my glory, how spending my day being forced to speak in French was such a delight. I had some troubles explaining things like "there's a leak in the ceiling that's damaging the wooden floors" (I came up with something like "the water comes from high and...that is of wood" XD).  I'm sure that my diction in both English and French here sounds pretty juvenile, but it is my hope that as I become more comfortable with French, my translations will become more fluid as well. I had loads of fun, and I so look forward to continuing to pursue French and fall more and more in love with this language. 

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abalonepearl

June 2017

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