Learning French

January 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

In the Spring of 2009 before I began to write the short story that would turn into a book, I took a 5 week French Immersion course at the Université Sainte-Anne in Nova Scotia.  The Université was the same one my Uncle Leo attended as a student between 1909-1911.  I was conscious then, as I often have been in Nova Scotia, of following his footsteps.  In the older section of the school where our classes were held, the wooden floors creaked under my footsteps as they must have in the years before my uncle went to the Great War.

I hadn’t gone to the Université because I wanted to write a book but because I wanted to understand where I came from in a deeper way and language has always been a portal into that understanding whether in English or French.  The immersion program wasn’t the easiest 5 weeks I’ve ever spent in my life but it threw me into the language pool and I’m still paddling away in le français.  It prepared me to talk with my relatives and to travel to France.  My language gaffes have always been treated with good humor and that lack of malice has had the effect of provoking a kind of bravery as I attempt to get my ideas across to the bemused speaker before me.  I write this to encourage anyone at any age to plunge into a foreign language.  I rather doubt in my case that the book I wrote could  have been written in English had I not studied French.

You can read tip #2 on Visiting Historical Sites from the interview in The Peaks Island Press here

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