Pardon My French

Friday, 26 October 2012
"Why learn a language when everyone speaks English anyway?" Every time I hear this, and I've heard it more times then you can imagine, a small part of me dies inside. Okay, so that might be a little melodramatic but the sentiment is still a painful one for me. The truth of the matter is that NOT everyone speaks English and never would I have it otherwise.

There are many benefits to learning a foreign language such as: boosting your intelligence, easing your travel experiences, assisting your career and even aiding your love life. In learning a foreign language I have experienced all four of these benefits in some way or another.

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Intelligence


I studied languages, Spanish and French, throughout my school career. Learning a foreign language has given me a better understanding of my own. For example, did you know you already speak a bit of French? The English language borrows a number of phrases from French, as well as others.

  1. "I just got déjà vu." The literal translation of déjà vu is 'already seen' and the phrase has come to describe the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that what you're experiencing has happened before.
  2. "He was given carte blanche." In French carte means card and blanche means white or blank. The two words put together in English mean free reign.
  3. "We live at the end of the cul-de-sac.Cul-de-sac means a dead-end street but the literal translation of this word in French is something quite vulgar. Let's just say sac means bag and leave it at that shall we.
  4. "I'm en route!" En route is a French phrase meaning 'on the way' that is commonly used in the English language.
  5. "She was wearing a lovely ensembleEnsemble can mean 'together' but in this context a more appropriate translation is outfit.

Studying French at university gave me the opportunity to go live abroad in Pau, France. Knowing some French before I arrived was a huge advantage as it made those first few weeks that little bit easier. I was able to get my mobile phone with relative ease and it certainly made the first trip to the supermarket a little less daunting.

Love


My decision to move to France was not motivated by the clichéd desire to find love in a foreign country. I wasn't expecting to be swept off my feet and certainly not by an Englishman. The fact of the matter is, neither of us would have met each other had we not been been studying French at university.

Children will be on the cards for us at some point, and when that happens we plan on moving back to France. Not forever mind you, but perhaps to begin the children's education in France so that they become bilingual. Having bilingual children is very important to both Luke and me as being bilingual can open many doors for you.


Travel


You don't have to live abroad to experience the benefits of knowing another language. Knowing languages has helped me on my travels. Whilst struggling to find somewhere to park in Barcelona, I was able to use my Spanish to ask for the nearest car park. (Although some of the people I spoke to in Spanish decided to respond to me in Catalan.) When lost in Brussels I was able to ask several people for directions to our hostel. The ones who actually responded in French (Belgians also speak Flemish) still couldn't help me but, had I not spoken French, I would not have been able to communicate with the nice police officers who eventually did help us find our hostel.

To this day, whenever Luke and I go abroad we try to learn some basic phrases in the language of the country to which we are travelling. Something as simple as ordering a pizza in Italian really can go a long way with the locals.

Career


Luke and I both use our language skills in our careers. Luke was specifically hired because of his ability to speak French. Luke's company has offices all over the globe, and whilst all employees are supposed to speak English, it can be very beneficial to speak foreign languages. His talent for languages has not gone unrecognised either; his company are paying for him to study German!

While I wasn't hired on the basis of speaking French, I often use it as I work at the European headquarters of my company. When we were organising an event in Paris, the employees of the restaurant, at which we were trying to book the formal dinner, only spoke French. Let me tell you, trying to explain the various allergies of the attendees was no small feat. Besides using my language on a semi-regular basis I am also fortunate enough to have several French colleagues with whom I can practice!

Q: Are there any words used in the English language you can think of with different origins? If you could learn any language other than your native one, what would it be?

Erin x

*This post was part of Kaplan's Inspire Language Learning Blogger Challenge.

8 comments:

  1. Leah Budke said...:

    Great post, Erin! I think it is so important to learn foreign languages; I'm quite glad that there is more emphasis on learning Spanish in American schools now than there was when I was growing up. Now that I'm older, I only wish I could have made better use of that crucial time-frame for learning languages because it's definitely not as easy now as it might have been in the past. I hope some day languages will be introduced even earlier in the course of education. I'll definitely be supporting your post in the competition; it's a wonderful thing to be generating awareness about the importance of learning languages because that is sadly very lacking in the American school system (at least in my personal experience).

  1. Erin Moran said...:

    Thanks for your comment Leah, I couldn't agree more. At the age of 9, my little French brother was studying both German and English at school, it's ridiculous that American school systems don't teach children earlier on because they think they're "too young". I wanted to learn foreign languages as a child, and the school system didn't allow me to as much as I would have liked!

    Erin x

  1. Russell Ward said...:

    Best of luck, Erin. Great entry! You know how I feel about learning foreign languages - very important. One phrase we used a lot in political science at uni was in reference to the policy of laissez-faire - leave them to it! I still randomly say 'je sais pas' when talking to someone and I just don't kknow... almost like a tic. Very strange of me ;-)

  1. We would love to be a bilingual family - in our household we speak Spanish, German, and French - well enough to get us around, but we'd like to take it to a higher level. Great post!

  1. Erin Moran said...:

    Thanks Russell, I've never heard of laissez-faire being used in political science?! How funny! I suppose that's because I was studying American poly sci, probably a lot different!

    Doesn't that feel great Laura when you can get around another country speaking the language a little bit?! It's never to late to learn at a higher level!

    Erin x

  1. Barb Brussels said...:

    hey there!just discovered your blog & I have to say, I really like it, so I'll be coming back.
    here's my few cents: I'm Polish, enagaged to a Spanish guy, living in bilingual Brussels.The way we communicate with each other is a funky mix of Polish, Spanish & most of all English. Had we not studies it, we'd never be together!
    so to all the people who speak one language & they think it's enough- wake up, in the 21st century speaking one language is just plain embarassing!:-)

  1. Erin Moran said...:

    Thanks Barb for your comment! My that is an eclectic mix, I always like hearing about the interesting way in which couples get together! I'm so glad you like my blog!

    Erin x

  1. Anonymous said...:

    Good evening Erin,

    Considering my position and my addiction to foreign languages, I cannot do something else than 100% agree with your analysis! The only "little problem" in your case, is that normally, you were supposed to meet a FRENCH guy in France, not an ENGLISH one!!! :) :) Well, anyway, it's all my fault, right?
    Pour te permettre de pratiquer ton français, je continue ce message dans la langue de Molière. Je suis ravie d'apprendre que tu as l'intention de venir élever tes futurs enfants en France ! Et bien sûr, vous serez toujours les bienvenus chez nous !
    Bravo pour ton blog, qui est une très bonne idée et qui nous donne une approche très intéressante de la relation américano-britannique ! Continue comme ça.

    Bises du Béarn à tous les deux et à la famille,
    Domi & Yann

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