Lawyer&Mom, Less is More (French & German)

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Cèid Donn
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Languages: native: eng-US; adv: gaelic. french; adv-int: irish, breton, german, spanish; int: welsh, indonesian, swedish; 6WC: russian; beg/dabbling: japanese, navajo, hawaiian, manx, yoruba, faroese. italian; eventually: darija; long ago: latin, biblical hebrew, ancient greek
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Re: Lawyer&Mom, Less is More (French & German)

Postby Cèid Donn » Tue May 14, 2019 9:51 pm

Lawyer&Mom wrote:
I was taught that language and culture are inseparable


They are, I assure you. A decade of studying minority languages has taught me this incredibly valuable insight. The thing is, you're talking about French, which like English, doesn't belong to one culture and hasn't for centuries. And one culture French belongs to is American (US) culture. I'm living proof of that, because I'm the daughter of someone who was born into and grew up in a part of the US where French has been spoken since it was a 18th century colony of an English king. And that Americans tend to kneejerkingly assume that languages other than English that have spoken here during the entirety of this country's existence--Spanish, French, German--as well as those that have been spoken here for multiple generations--Italian, Polish, Russian, various East Asian languages and many others--and even indigenous languages that managed to survive the settler genocide as all somehow "foreign" and not part of our culture shows a real deprivation in our own awareness of who we really are as Americans. That's in addition to the historical fact that the French and Americans have has a long-standing cultural relationship with each other that extends far back before our current age of global US media domination to this country's very origins. (I'm also living proof of this, as my surname comes from an officer who served in Lafayette's army that came over here as result Benjamin Franklin's successful ambassadorship to France.)

But back to the fact that French doesn't belong to one culture--this touches on something that bugs me to no end, and I deal with it a lot with English and Spanish too. It's the idea that a "world" language still only belongs to its country of origin, and that anyone speaking it outside of that country is speaking some bastardized version of it. As I often tell English folk who pout online about the dominance of US English, "If you wanted to maintain control of your language, you shouldn't have gone out, colonized half the planet and supplanted countless indigenous languages with English." And it chafes me the same way whenever I see similar shade thrown on varieties of French and Spanish that are spoken outside of France or Spain, because it's the same old story. A lot of people do this without realizing they are, because they are so conditioned to thinking this way. There's a lot of minds out there that need to be decolonized.

The point is, languages that have become a dominant or otherwise highly influential language in countries that were formerly colonized now belong to those people and their cultures, end of discussion. This means that with French, it belongs to North American culture, to Northwest African culture, to Vietnamese culture and to every other culture of all other former colonies of France around the world, not to mention to the international societies of academia, science, art, music and literature--not just to Europe. This isn't the same sort of thing as if we're talking about a minority languages whose language and culture has had very little influence or presence outside of its own community. In those cases, yes, that one language belongs to that one culture. But with "world" languages like French, the language easily belongs to many and you can very well study French without giving a damn about Europe or l'Hexagone. Honestly, I often find it better that way.
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Lawyer&Mom
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Re: Lawyer&Mom, Less is More (French & German)

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Wed May 15, 2019 3:55 pm

I totally agree with you. But right now, by binging American culture in translation I’m not just ignoring France, but the entire Francophonie as well.
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Re: Lawyer&Mom, Less is More (French & German)

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Wed May 22, 2019 6:00 pm

I was returning some kids books at the library and made an impulse pick of my own: “Greek to Me” by Mary Norris. It was an easy, fun read describing the author’s relationship with Greek and Greece over a period of decades. It wasn’t straight memoir, there was a focus on Greek language and culture itself, which was certainly interesting, but less interesting to me than the authors experience of learning a foreign language. (My favorite foreign language memoir is, and remains “French Lessons: A Memoir” by Alice Kaplan. Highly recommended.) Nevertheless it was fun to get all the mythological references, which I certainly should, given that the kids and I have been listening to D’Aulaires Greek Myths in the car on constant rotation for the last month... It also made me want to travel again, but almost everything does these days. Kids are cramping my jet setting ways!
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Re: Lawyer&Mom, Less is More (French & German)

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Wed Jun 26, 2019 4:39 pm

Just finished my 10th book in French. (I’m counting the first 250 pages of Eragon that I read before I gave up as one book.) I’ve started a spreadsheet, I’m at just over 3,000 pages. (My actual page count is a little higher if you include all the kids books I’ve read, but I’m making the cut-off at about a middle school reading level. Something with chapters that you probably wouldn’t read in a single sitting.) Conventional wisdom seems to be that reading gets easier after the first 10,000 pages. First, Eeek! I’m reading much faster now, but 10,000 pages is going to take forever. Second, how much easier can this really get? A couple of thoughts. Could French for a native English speaker just take fewer pages? My reading feels pretty good now. Or am I just so used to the intermediate plateau that I’m not prepared for how easy reading will be after 10,000 pages? (I’ve also compiled all the German books I’ve read in the past 20 years and I’m only at 1,500 pages. I’ve never been above intermediate in a language.)
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Re: Lawyer&Mom, Less is More (French & German)

Postby MamaPata » Wed Jun 26, 2019 8:33 pm

I'm coming to the end of my second Super Challenge, so that's nearly 10,000 pages (well, I have quite a bit to go, but there's stuff I read previously). I've seen a pretty massive jump in ease, but maybe your French was better at the start? I definitely had a long way to go and I could feel it, although I knew what was going on in books.
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Re: Lawyer&Mom, Less is More (French & German)

Postby Cavesa » Thu Jun 27, 2019 12:00 am

Lawyer&Mom wrote:Just finished my 10th book in French. (I’m counting the first 250 pages of Eragon that I read before I gave up as one book.) I’ve started a spreadsheet, I’m at just over 3,000 pages. (My actual page count is a little higher if you include all the kids books I’ve read, but I’m making the cut-off at about a middle school reading level. Something with chapters that you probably wouldn’t read in a single sitting.) Conventional wisdom seems to be that reading gets easier after the first 10,000 pages. First, Eeek! I’m reading much faster now, but 10,000 pages is going to take forever. Second, how much easier can this really get? A couple of thoughts. Could French for a native English speaker just take fewer pages? My reading feels pretty good now. Or am I just so used to the intermediate plateau that I’m not prepared for how easy reading will be after 10,000 pages? (I’ve also compiled all the German books I’ve read in the past 20 years and I’m only at 1,500 pages. I’ve never been above intermediate in a language.)


Congratulations, this is awesome! And yes, it will get easier after 10000 pages. Even before that to some extent, but I can't even guess by how much and at what moment.

Well, French for a native English speaker might take fewer pages than for a native Czech, that sounds plausible. But I wouldn't say by that much, people around here don't sound excited and comfortable with their reading around 5000 pages. Also, the learning curve and your chosen books will take part in how comfortable you'll be feeling. But yes, I think you may just not be fully able to imagine how easy it could be later :-D Are you already as comfortable reading in French as in English? If not, there is still a lot of space for improvement and it will be awesome!

MamaPata wrote:I'm coming to the end of my second Super Challenge, so that's nearly 10,000 pages (well, I have quite a bit to go, but there's stuff I read previously). I've seen a pretty massive jump in ease, but maybe your French was better at the start? I definitely had a long way to go and I could feel it, although I knew what was going on in books.


Awesome!!! Congratulations on this achievement!
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Lawyer&Mom
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Re: Lawyer&Mom, Less is More (French & German)

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:42 am

I’m nowhere near as comfortable reading French as I am with English. But I can’t imagine being as comfortable in a foreign language! I’m willing to believe, but wow. That will be something.
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Re: Lawyer&Mom, Less is More (French & German)

Postby Brun Ugle » Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:34 am

Lawyer&Mom wrote:I’m nowhere near as comfortable reading French as I am with English. But I can’t imagine being as comfortable in a foreign language! I’m willing to believe, but wow. That will be something.

I’m generally as comfortable reading Norwegian as I am English and have been for a long time, but I have no idea how many pages it took me to get there. I haven’t reached that level in any other languages yet, but I’m seeing continuous improvement.
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Re: Lawyer&Mom, Less is More (French & German)

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:27 pm

So I started a new book, God Save La France, by Stephen Clarke. This is a bit of an odd duck, because it’s set in Paris, but actually translated from English. And it’s all about Anglo/French cultural differences. I’m in the first chapter and we’ve already had a decent Assimil joke. It’s set in 2003, when I was actually in London hanging out with Parisians, so it’s pushing all sorts of nostalgia buttons. And the French is kicking my butt. The narrator makes lots of quips and snarky references and I can’t always make the connections. Follow the plot? Sure no problem. But I’m missing good stuff. This is the first book in awhile I could imagine reading again.
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Re: Lawyer&Mom, Less is More (French & German)

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Mon Jul 01, 2019 3:57 pm

So I’ve realized why God Save La France is so hard. Boatloads of French slang. (New words for sex, inebriation, anatomy, etc.) Which, hats off to the translator I guess, but maybe books aimed at young men (the narrator is 27, single, and on the prowl) just require a certain amount of slang to seem appropriately irreverent? I guess it’s great to have exposure, but I don’t feel like my French is anywhere near the level where I should try to retain any of this stuff.
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