This story is dedicated to my parents, who made an epic trek north to visit me in Québec City four years ago. On that Father’s Day weekend, I was beginning another month of immersion in French — only the second round of four, as it turned out — but the real education I received that summer was about how much that city rocks. It was so great that Seb and I went back the following summer, and very soon we’ll be there to soak it all up yet again. Happy birthday, Mom, and happy Father’s Day, Dad! Thank you for exploring this fantastic place with me. Come back anytime. And a special thank you to Réjean, Édith, and Mélanie, for welcoming me, tolerating my attempts to stay in French, and showing me around La Belle Province four years ago. À bientôt!
Just a quick update to let you all know the latest news — Tout va bien au Congo. The election period passed without too many problems, although without a new president, either. The administration and the opposition have agreed to hold elections later this year, although I’ve heard that both sides are missing notable signatories. So we’ll see. In the meantime, everyone is back to work as normal chez nous, and last week they even gave the spouses permission to return. If I hadn’t already paid for a month of French classes, I would have jumped on the same plane as Seb.
I must admit, I’m making this up. There is no controversy. The world of linguistics seems pretty settled that immersion is the best way to learn. But I think they’re all wrong. I think this should become a controversy.
When we plunked down $700 to buy the Rosetta Stone French series before leaving the States four years ago, we were obviously putting a lot of faith into it. Its slick packaging and select marketing and pricey price tag didn’t really make us question its efficacy. The only question was whether I’d have the discipline to follow it. If I did, then of course I would learn French, right? It’s practically guaranteed!
Those of us who try to learn our first foreign language as an adult are at a huge disadvantage. I’m not just talking about the common knowledge that languages are harder for adults to learn than children. (This is news to no one.) I’m talking about actual scientific evidence that monolingual brains simply aren’t wired for it.
For my grandparents, who tried traveling in Québec many years ago and immediately made for the exit. It seemed nobody wanted to help English-speaking tourists then. Today I can go purposely in search of a French immersion experience yet can’t keep strangers from switching to English with me. So you guys should try it again. Happy Grandparents Day, a little late!
When I say that I still don’t speak French fluently, after nearly four years of trying, most people are surprised to hear that. “Really, still??” a friend from home asked just the other day. These were probably a few of the thoughts running through his head:
- But you live in a French-speaking country with a French-speaking husband!
- What have you been doing for four years then??
- I feel like I’m making quick progress as a beginner! What’s wrong with you?
- OMG, how long does it really take then??