Posts Tagged ‘French language’

Accomplishments

December 21, 2014

In high school, I was required to complete English to French translations on a weekly basis. In college, minoring in French, the translation obligation continued. I became quite adept at it, even thought about a career as a translator but life took me in a different direction. Over the many long years I’ve lived in New Mexico with minimal occasion to use French, I gradually lost my fluency.

A year ago, I felt that if I did not do something – urgently – to begin using French again, I would cease to be able to express myself in the language. I sought out someone with whom to speak and not only regained fluency but totally transformed my life. Now, a year later, I was called upon last night to translate English into French once more. The task was only a short prayer for Advent, but I found myself able to complete the project easily and rapidly. Few recent accomplishments have given me as great a sense of satisfaction as that paragraph of translation, flowing readily from my pen.

Over the course of a day, I reflected on why I value the resurrection of bilingual skill so much more highly than I do the talents that let me do my daily work effectively. I have been complimented on what others perceive as my unique work skills which they value and appreciate. I don’t exactly take my talents for granted, but – like my ability to cook – they come so naturally as to be simply a part of me.

Is it the perceived effort involved, that affects what I feel to be an accomplishment?

Once upon a time, I suppose, cooking took effort. That was so very long ago that I truly don’t remember not being easy in the kitchen, as I was when recently called up to create a satisfying Asian/African meal for 3 hungry men with only an hour’s notice. It did please me that the meal satisfied my guests. I expected nothing less of myself.

My mother had a part-time job, when I was small, that took her out of the house just before I arrived home from school. She would leave me notes listing my chores for the day, often including the beginning preparations for that night’s supper. I apparently absorbed the basics of cooking and seasoning so completely that, years later, I “created” a chicken dish for company that was a big hit. I later served it to my parents when they came to visit. My mother took a bite, then said, “When did I give you this recipe?”
“You didn’t. I made up the meal when I wanted to do something different with chicken.”
“But I used to cook this same dish,” she insisted.
We compared notes on spices and preparation and she said I had copied her exactly. I was 24 then. The last time my mother could have cooked the meal for me, I was eight.

I cannot so easily point to the origins of my skill with people, and with words, that contribute to the appreciation I have lately experienced in my work. Living in different cultures certainly played a part. So did my parents’ emphasis on speaking correctly. I remember my father walking around the house practicing “around the rough and rugged rock the ragged rascal ran” in order to soften his Germanic r’s. In recent years, I’ve had to consciously undo some of that early language training. It comes across to some people as arrogance or snobbishness, qualities that interfere with establishing the rapport essential to my job in health care.

It still surprises me, that people perceive me as having a unique talent for connecting “with all sorts” in many different environments. People interest me. Understanding them is necessary to assisting them. I’m just “doing what comes naturally.” Which brings me back to the idea that there must be some effort involved in an activity, for me to feel that it is an accomplishment. I had to work, this past year, to restore my comfort with French, so completing the translation feels like an achievement.

There is a caution offered, that one should beware of what comes easily. “Easy come, easy go.” I wonder if it is meant to warn against not taking one’s own easy talents for granted? If one disregards the talents, will one lose them? Certainly, not practicing and using French almost led to that sort of loss. But I cannot conceive of not knowing how to cook, and am now daily making meals pleasing to someone other than myself, using recipes I have not prepared in more than ten years.

My people skills and cooking seem to fall into the realm of habit – like riding a bike, swimming, or driving a car. I no longer need to think about them, I just do them. Habitual skills do not fade (except maybe with dementia or other brain malfunctions) for lack of practice. In fact, it took close to forty years of non-use for my ability to speak French to fade from fluent to almost erased. I’ve been told that my French was not at risk of extinction, only dormant and waiting for the proper environment to cause it to rise once more to a serviceable level. Maybe. It didn’t feel that way last year at this time.

Am I alone in not taking much credit for habitual skills? Is it common to only value that which one has worked to achieve? If skills and talents already developed are sufficiently satisfying, does one then “rest on one’s laurels” and perhaps cease to learn and grow?

Aspiration Accomplished

Aspiration Accomplished

I don’t have answers today, only questions… seulement des questions, pas de reponses.
Merci de me lire et de me repondre.

Friends

February 2, 2014

There is nothing intrinsic to my speaking French that excludes women.

There is something significant to the pattern of my friendships, which were primarily with males until I was well into my adult and professional life.

I had one close girlfriend as a small child – Sara Harwood – whose family moved away from Washington DC when I was about nine. I ran away ten blocks to her house after one particularly horrible encounter with my mother. Her mother sat me down with milk and cookies, listened to me, then called my home to say I was invited to spend the night with my playmate. The next day Sara’s mother drove me home. I have no idea what she said to my mother – but nothing changed in how I was treated.

I also played with a neighbor – Keith Fleming – until my family moved away from Washington DC when I was twelve. Keith had a wonderful playhouse her father had built in their back yard. We were both only children; neither of our families was comfortable with the other, limiting our interaction to the hours we spent building fantasy lives in the playhouse.

From the time we moved to Vietnam, as I turned thirteen, I was a loner – or had friends who were boys and, as I grew older, a sequence of boyfriends. I missed out on slumber parties. Not allowed to attend, and my mother steadfastly refused to take on responsibility for anyone else’s children so I never had friends over to visit in my home. Without the opportunity to reciprocate, I became uncomfortable spending time in other homes, reinforcing my loner path through my teens.

In the arms of the Leper King - Angkhor Wat

In the arms of the Leper King – Angkhor Wat

Undoubtedly the difficulties of life with my severely emotionally disturbed mother produced subtle bias against forming relationships with women. By contrast, I received affection from the one grandparent in my life – my Grampa – and at least intermittently from my father. Not surprising, therefore, that I was more comfortable with boys than with girls – and consequently not surprising that my memories from my French-speaking life are of interactions with males.

Overlooking Athens

Overlooking Athens

Not surprising either – perhaps – that for much of my early career I worked in male-dominated areas, encountering relatively few women from amongst whom to find friends. Clinical research in Boston, employment testing and then wildlife management planning in Santa Fe, then teaching in the New Mexico penitentiary… surrounded by men, in some cases the only female professional in the group. It wasn’t until I reached my mid-thirties that I developed close friendships with several women. Interestingly, they remain my friends today – thirty some years later. So once the barrier came down, friendships with both sexes became my norm.

Sivan at Mesa Verde

Sivan at Mesa Verde

Come to think of it, those first friendships with women had a common thread – all of us had had difficult relationships with our mothers. We were mature enough to not feel the need to vie, as teens so often do, for “who had it worst” (or best, or easiest). Absent that competitive tone, we could learn from each other and bond over our shared solutions to the psychological slings and arrows we had endured. Just a week ago, one of those friends commented to me that she’s always thought of me as sexy although she’d never mentioned the trait to me. I am surprised – it’s not at all how I think of myself, although I do enjoy and embrace that aspect of life. Reflecting on her remark, I realize that there is still a corner of my psyche that accepts my mother’s strictures against behaving improperly – i.e. in a sexual manner. And believe me, she saw sexual innuendo everywhere!

A meal with Leon at San Felipe

A meal with Leon at San Felipe

I don’t. And where I do see it, I am not offended nor embarrassed, nor do I think of myself as improper because I enjoy all aspects of my being. My female friends, I suspect, do the same, though that is not a subject we’ve found it necessary to discuss. Instead we talk about our careers, balancing personal with professional life. We share excitement over new endeavors, and commiseration over frustrated aspirations. And, with those who are, like me, followers of MasterPath, we share the outward manifestation of our inner spiritual discoveries.

It no longer seems to matter to me if a friend is male or female – the nature of the bonding remains the same. Shared values, interest in new aspects of life, finding ways to be useful and to be appreciated, these are my building blocks for any constructive relationship. I’m pleased to know that my early misdirection away from females has been overcome; now I just need to encounter some French-speaking women to bring full balance to my language-dictated relationships.

A happy Khin

A happy Khin

In Another Language

January 12, 2014

Do you speak more than one language fluently?

How are you different to yourself or to others, according to the language you are using? How does the difference in world view embodied in a language reveal a difference in its speakers? What depth of knowledge, of concept and perception of the world is lost when a language dies for want of speakers?

Once upon a time, when I was much younger, I was fully bilingual, speaking, thinking, dreaming in French as readily as I do in English. After forty years of living in the Southwest, with rare occasion to use French, and then only for a few hours at a time, I felt that I was losing more than the ability to speak French. I was losing aspects of my identity, personality, self.

Some traits are obvious – I use my hands much more when I speak French. These past thirty years have steadily diminished both my gestures and the mobility of my face (as evidenced by videos), with my communication limited to English. What else about myself is disappearing? Am I less flirtatious? More reserved? Living more through my mind and less through my emotions?

Or are those changes the result of growing older, of my life experiences, of my spiritual practice – and would exist irrespective of the language I speak?

In the way of events in my life now, once I’d framed up an inquiry, the means to explore the answer presented itself. I’ve been introduced to a Cameroonian who has been pursuing graduate studies at a nearby university. He is fluently bilingual, and offers me the opportunity to resurrect my French. I’ve been pleased to discover that my language skill still exists, relatively intact, beneath the surface of my daily life and that, as I use it regularly, my fluency is returning. My pronunciation, however, definitely needs practice.

What else is or needs changing as a result of using a second language? Can I separate shifts in attitude or emotion that originate within me based on language, from those resulting from the topics of discussion?  What is the effect of conversing with an African, rather than a Frenchman, or a bilingual American?

A good friend with whom I discussed the effects of language on perception, told me of how his relationship with an acquaintance changed as a result of a change in use of language. The interaction of the two men had been conducted in a mixture of fractured Thai and equally limited English. Despite the limitations, they had begun to build a friendship. Then the American was observed by the Thai, chatting easily with a group of other English speakers – and “the friendship was not the same afterwards. He saw me differently, and seemed not to be able to be comfortable with me in the same way as before.”

Do I see myself differently, when I speak French? I’ve been remembering events from my earlier life that I’ve not thought of in a long time. An evening at a club on the Left Bank in Paris, during my junior year of high school (American School of Paris) to which I was invited by the son of a friend of my mother’s. Hugh had just returned from a semester in the US, and ostensibly was introduced to me by our mothers, so that he could practice his English. He already had plans for the evening, and agreed to include me. On the way to the Sorbonne, by metro, he suddenly asked what part of the US I was from. When I said Washington DC his next question was, “Is that considered the South?”

He was subtly trying to determine if I’d have a problem spending the evening with his friends – African students at the Sorbonne. I did not. We collected his two French-speaking friends from Dahomey (now Benin), and went on to visit a Nigerian who has in hospital. There we acquired a fifth member of the group, a visitor who spoke virtually no French. As the only person fluent in both languages, I became the interpreter for the evening, which meant that I danced with one or the other of the men from Dahomey who argued for each African nation developing itself economically, then with the Nigerian visitor whose view was that a Pan African approach to growth was essential to the emergence of the continent as a presence in the world. About every third or fourth dance, Hugh would escort me and – in English – check to see if I was enjoying myself, and if I minded talking so much politics.

I mostly remember the oddity of being – with Hugh – virtually the only white face in the club, which was a hangout for all the Africans living in Paris. I remember enjoying the dancing, and the adventure associated with being out with “older” guys (they were in their mid-twenties) and experiencing an evening so distinctly different from the norm of my life.

My first “true love” happened in French. I dated Patrick throughout my senior year, left him behind when I graduated and returned to the US to attend college, but never really left him behind. He visited me in Boston seven years later – and fifteen years after that came with his family to the US, and a visit at my home near Santa Fe. We still exchange greetings although we haven’t written letters or talked in a long time, partially because I “lost” my French, partially because I’ve found it challenging to translate some of my US, and particularly my rural Southwest, experiences into a language I know primarily as a fast-paced, urban expression.

In college, for about a year, I dated an African Olympic soccer star, coincidentally also from Dahomey. We spoke French when alone, but English in company. He led the college team to the championships, and would usually make one goal that was spectacularly “pour toi” – a solo, elaborate-footwork trip down the field showing off his skills. The rest of the game he was the consummate team player. He was also sadly troubled and displaced, enough to not return from a summer visit home between our sophomore and junior years. In this instance also, French was associated with experiences out of the norm of my life – even though I was minoring in the subject. Studying French literature and practicing translation of texts felt like part of my general academic life. Dancing the High Life, cheering at a soccer match off campus, trying to help my friend overcome the culture shock that was dampening his spirit – those were new and different challenges.

So am I finding that I’m more adventurous in French? Perhaps…

I certainly seem to be more frank. Because I do not have the fluency to mask my thoughts and feelings? Perhaps…

I notice, in the recounting, that the significant experiences being brought to mind by my use of French are all about interactions with the opposite sex! Hmmmm…..

To be continued.

Creativity in a Second Language

September 15, 2013

I’ve started a new class through Coursera – a MOOC – that apparently has close to 125,000 people signed up for it worldwide. Mind boggling to think of that many students going to class together. The topic is Creativity – and in keeping with the course’s intent to promote more creative lives among the students, I’ve joined a subgroup of French speakers enrolled in the class. A challenging way to resurrect my skills with a language which I once spoke and wrote fluently, but which I’ve had little occasion to use in the last thirty years. Since the class is on-line, that means I’m writing French – the most difficult way to use a language skill. Should be an interesting eight weeks!

The first assignment included an option to make a sort of life map – identifying a core value at the center of everything one does, and then listing 3-5 priorities in each area of life, such as family, career, community, etc. I found the exercise relatively easy to do, given that my spiritual path (MasterPath) calls for a consistent effort to examine and process one’s life experiences. But I also attribute some of the ease to age – one doesn’t get to 70 and still engaged with employment, learning and community service, without having examined one’s priorities, and kept tabs on how they evolve over time.

What didn’t get addressed by the Life Ring activity was what I’d call a question of style – how do you, I, we approach daily life? I’m scheduled to facilitate an Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshop with a competent co-leader who is very organized, detail oriented, and most comfortable when every aspect of the workshop is clearly spelled out in advance, including how each activity links to a small number of specific topics. I on the other hand, like to ‘wing it’ for at least part of the weekend. I’ve put together an agenda that includes exercises which can be related to a number of different topics. Part of the challenge – and the learning – that I value in AVP is how it reveals interrelationships that participants have not previously considered. I trust my own skill at helping tie those relationships together, and therefore like to leave room for the unexpected to emerge as the activities are processed.

There’s a lot to be learned co-facilitating with someone whose style differs from mine. Birds of a feather may indeed flock together – but do they learn how to get along with those of a different plumage? We draw reassurance from associating with others like ourselves. We learn and grow when challenged by those with whom we have differences. Which makes the concept of thousands of students from a hundred or more different cultures all joining together to explore creativity a highly innovative concept.

The Francophone subgroup is on LinkedIn, enabling me to check the careers and interests of other members, as they can review mine. Most of those I’ve looked up so far are younger, in business, engineering, industry, very few list teaching, none that I’ve found so far work in social service or health-related careers as I have done. The instructors for the course want the students to find ways to apply the concepts we study to our fields of endeavor, and to work together in teams to develop those projects. I seem to have set myself up to stretch my creativity to the max, finding ways to apply my skills, in a second language, to areas of life with which I have little if any experience! Should be fun…Meanwhile, the course does stress that we all have the capacity to be creative – and that our styles do indeed differ. We have all been asked to take a survey that classifies us along a continuum from adaptively creative to innovatively creative. I come up moderately innovative. I suspect my AVP co-facilitator would land somewhere on the adaptive end of the dimension. I’m realizing, as I write, that by putting on the workshop with her later this month, I will have completed the major assignment of the course – which is to apply the principles of creativity, in conjunction with others, to an aspect of my professional life. Thankfully I don’t have to put on the workshop in French!


Health News

tips , tricks , reviews , advice's

Life with an Illness

Sharing my chronic illness journey, while helping others. I spread awareness, love, and positivity along the way!♡

MICHAEL GRAY

Original work with a spiritual connection.

Megha Bose

A peek into Megha's mind

Neurodivergent Rebel

Rebelling against a culture that values assimilation over individuality.

The Beauty Along the Road

Discovering Beauty in the small details of our lives

Flowerwatch Journal

Notes on Traveling with Flowers

1eclecticwriter

Wide-Ranging Commentary

Spirituality Exploration Today

Delving into the cross roads of rationality and intuition

O' Canada

Reflections on Canadian Culture From Below the Border

smilecalm

Life through Mindful Media

San'in Monogatari

Legends, folktales, and anecdotes from Japan's San'in region

Matt Travels

your weekly nature and travel blog

Ray Ferrer - Emotion on Canvas

** OFFICIAL Site of Artist Ray Ferrer **

aka The Versatile

Food | Fashion | Lifestyle | Beauty | Finance | Fitness | Education | Product Reviews | Movies | Doodling | Poetess

Aging Abundantly | Women Over Fifty | Empty Nesters | Caregivers | Aging Gracefully

Finding Joy at Every Age with writer/philosopher Dorothy Sander