I recently decided to relearn the French language — not that I was incredibly fluent in the first place, but I had taken five years and could cobble together a conversation. However, that was almost 40 years ago. So I enrolled in an adult immersion class at a local school and tried the intermediate section. Although I was surprised at how much I understood (in context, or course), participating in a conversation was equivalent to me staring blankly into headlights. I was trying to call up the appropriate vocabulary words, the right verb conjugation and whether I should use the masculine or feminine version — all at the same time. It was quite a lot to ask my almost 60 year old brain to handle. After a few classes, I realized I was in over my head and decided to postpone until the beginners class started again in the fall. Yet, I didn’t want to let more time further obliterate what little French I still held on to.
What could I do in the meantime? I decided it would be good to work on building my vocabulary and pronunciation skills. I had a long drive coming up, and so I found myself in the language section of our library. There I found shelves of books and audiovisual materials on languages ranging from French to Korean. I picked up what appeared to be some fairly basic vocabulary and speaking skill books with corresponding CDs. I also checked out some downloadable audiobooks to augment my limited grasp of the language. Armed with my audiobooks, I set out on my two hour drive.
I inserted the first CD and thus began a fairly long conversation between two individuals. After the conversation was over, the instructor asked me to repeat. I stared dumbly through the windshield and said, “Are you kidding me?” When I stopped to get gas, I looked at the CD more thoroughly. As they say, “the best laid plans … ” Apparently I need to go back to Library Basics 101, because it helps to look at which volume you are checking out. When you check out volume eight of a many volume series, you will be expected to be at a more advanced level! In my excitement to start, I neglected to look at the volumes. Back to the drawing board, and this time, I actually looked at what I was checking out; I picked the appropriate volumes, and checked out a few downloadable audiobooks. Et de retour sur la route de mon voyage en français! (And back on the road of my French language journey!)
As we near the summer and vacation plans begin to form, perhaps you will have some time to refresh a language that you used to know, or learn about a country that you may be going to visit. Our library is a great place to start. We have many travel books and videos that give concise information on a specific geographical area.
Perhaps you just want to learn a few phrases to help you negotiate travel in a country with a different language. You might want to try the audiobook “French: The Complete Language Course” by Henry Raymond. Or, if you want to learn more than the minimum, the library also has Transparent Language Online, which gives you the tools to learn over 80 foreign languages!
We have some excellent resources that can be useful in preparing for your adventures:
- A to Z World Travel which features travel guides and resources for over 200 cities around the world
- Global Road Warrior maps, photos and information about 175 countries and territories.
- CultureGrams offers maps, statistics, photos and more about specific areas.