Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Read my Op-Ed in the NY Times

What a week - first, my Vous/Tu chart in the LA Times goes viral (although I am worried that Le Monde has picked it up -- lord, what have I done to Franco-American relations!), and today the NY Times has published by op-ed on the the benefits of failing at French.

You can read the Times piece here.

3 comments:

  1. Seriously, don't abandon french. Yeah, it's hard to learn. For an adult, even more. But one year is nothing. I say it's hard to learn while being french! After decades of writing and intensive reading I still discover rules and exeptions every day.

    But if this is what makes french that hard, it's what makes it so beautifull. Most of french speakers can't even see it. But this language is one of the poets. It was made by them and stand by them.

    Don't abandon, because the day you can read Baudelaire or Rimbaud in french, you will be stunned by their beauty for the rest of your life.

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  2. Je débarque via le New York Times...

    Interesting article about learning a foreign language as a mental exercice. Your experience doesn't surprise me, it confirms what I was suspecting and, as I was hesitating about trying to learn a third language, for that reason (declining memory) among others, I take it as an encouragement.

    The "tu/vous" chart is fun and to a large extent correct (80-90% ?). I don't think it's possible to reach 100%. There will never be absolute and definitive rules, unless the "vous" disappears,

    A priori, I would say "vous" to a teacher, even if he or she is younger than me, and I think he or she would expect me to do so, by respect. On the other side, I've spent one or two years trying to build my sentences, while talking to a teacher, in such a way that I didn't had to choose between tu and vous, but it was evening classes between adults in a not very formal atmosphere, and this hesitation only appeared after a first year of saying vous. And only with one of the teacher. The other one was friendly as well, and not so much older, but for some style or personnality reason, nobody would have say "tu" to him.

    (I'm French.)

    Also, not every believer would say "tu" to God, I think. The use of "tu" in this case could come from the original latin prayers, as there's no "vous" in latin, and the grammatical forms of the singular second person looks more like the "tu" than like the "vous". (N.B. : a quick internet search seams to indicate that it's also an oecumenic choice of Vatican II to do like protestantism).

    We could notice that the absence of "vous" in English or Latin is not only a difficulty for people learning French, but also for French people translating from English to French. I often see many bizarre choices in english movies/series subtitled in French.

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  3. I saw your article in the NY Times and am looking forward to reading your book when it comes out. As for the improvement you found in cognitive abilities, I think you have become one of the adventurers on the lands emerging as ideas about mental abilities collide. On the one hand are those that think attributes are fixed. A fascinating article about predicting who can learn languages can be found at http://nautil.us/issue/12/feedback/secret-military-test-coming-soon-to-your-spanish-class in which attributes such as short-term memory (which they assume to be fixed after a certain age) are believed to underlie the ability to learn a language. On the other continent, so to speak, are the researchers that believe we still have plasticity even as adults. There are products available for older adults that are supposed to enhance basic mental functions. Some, no doubt, are bunk, but some may have a grain (or a bushel) of truth. I think what you've personally experienced goes against the prevailing fixed-ability point of view; it sounds like you didn't achieve your goal of fluency in French, but several sub-abilities saw significant improvement. Perhaps if you continue to try to learn French you will have more success.

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