Friday, April 06, 2018

Sprechen-vous Espanol?

I have many multi-lingual friends who speak up to seven languages fluently. I wish they weren't so nice or I would hate them. Call it jealousy.

In eighth grade I took Latin and happily switched to Spanish for my two-year high school graduation requirement.

As a bride we were stationed in Stuttgart Germany. I immediately enrolled in a three-week intensive course that left me functional on the economy, as soldiers referred to anything off base.

At university I took French. Our professor was a story teller. In two years we covered ten pages, and I definitely knew how to tell people that Paris was located on the Seine in French, should anyone ask.

No one has.

After three semesters I went into an advanced modern French drama course. Thanks to a girl friend I was able to do word for word translations on her notes and on the readings.

It went fine until the test.

"What are you doing in this class?" the teacher asked. I didn't want to say I couldn't face another hour with the my former idiot French professor who was her friend. I said, I was fascinated with modern French drama. She let me write in English and I got an A for knowledge. She told me not to take French again.

I also took a directed studio on Goethe although I'd forgotten much of my German.

There was no need for languages for a decade or two when I moved to Switzerland working for an anglophone company with anglophone clients. I wanted to be able to function outside the closed English environment.

My boss said I was too told to learn French.

I proved him wrong becoming competent enough to gain my Swiss nationality and have non-English speaking friends. I can read books and articles. Depending on the accent (anything but something from Marseilles) I can understand spoken French.

For 14 years I dated a Swiss man who spoke no English. When my daughter was with us, they spoke German, he and I spoke French, and she spoke and I spoke French. When his daughter-in-law with us, Spanish might be added to the mix.

I still dread speaking French on the telephone. Some say I speak French with a Boston accent, and a standard expression is "Ce n'st pas votre faute, c'est mon accent" when people don't understand my accent. It isn't their fault.

As for my German when I went to Bern for radiation, I dreaded that I'd have to speak Swiss German with the doctor. Turns out, he was one of those people fluent in seven languages and I suspect told a good joke in all, although he entertained me only in French and English.

Lately I've been trying to bring back my German working with tapes. Much is coming back. It is more of a problem to find the time to do it.

If I have another life after this one, I want to be born into a multi-lingual family.

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