Blogger Widgets Ender-Chan's Thoughts: Learning a Foreign Language

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Learning a Foreign Language

Bonjour! Je m'appelle FlûteFierté et je suis quinze ans. Je suis américaine. Comment t'appelles-vous et comment allez-vous?

If you freaked out because you don't know French, you just experienced what I feel when I am in a new social situation and don't know what to do. The social language is one that comes to me like a second language. I need to translate it into my native tongue in order to understand it and, as with any language, some subtleties get lost in translation. I needed instruction in my native tongue in order to understand the language to the extent necessary to function.

My French teacher (who I will refer to "Madame") told me about herself living in France to go to college there. Since Madame did not already know French at the time, she had no idea which room number to go to, how much money she lost or gained throughout the course of a day, how to order specific quantities of anything, mistakenly offended many people by using the incorrect greetings and pronouns, and learned the French language through total immersion, which is a traditional language teaching method. Madame does not use the immersion method because she knows the confusion and disorientation it creates personally.

I, too, had to learn the social language through total immersion, which is why I identified with Madame's account more than the others. I had no idea if I was making too much or too little eye contact, accidentally insulted those I intended to compliment, could not tell how someone felt beyond basic emotions, was never sure of what my own face looked like if I could not see it and otherwise was lost in a world that spoke a different language than I did. I learned the language, but from people who learned the social language first and mine second. Therefore, I was disoriented and frustrated (as were they) when they tried to explain the social language to me in my terms, then reverted to their native language.

Though I comprehend most of the social language, I will never consider myself fluent in the social language because I need to translate it into my own language. Though I look like a native speaker at times, the underlying meanings that get lost in translation do not occur to me. I still cannot tell the direction someone will move without knowing their intentions first and avoid helping others because I do not like to receive assistance. Forever I will learn the social language and strive for fluency, though I cannot attain it.


  1. This is a very interesting and clear analogy.

  2. Replies
    1. Have you ever been to a country whose language you cannot speak?

    2. Yes I arrived in Greece in 1981 with not a word of the language, also I struggle with social cues too,

    3. The Greek language is hard; I know some Greek roots, but I can't speak Greek.


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