february and the target language

how long does it take to learn a language? i think i started giving myself a real talking to when, somewhere in the first couple of months out here in paris, i asked myself that very question – and answered myself in the most meaningful way that i could: your whole dang life.

entering into a new language is like entering into a pact – all the more reason, for a skittish kind of kid like me, to wanna back out.

i remember the story here of the patient hen who invited each of her friends to help her grow some wheat – and each of them said, uh, i’d rather be chewing cud, etc. the story goes on… from the seeds of wheat to the finale: bread making. when the bread is made, well, doesn’t it smell good… but none of the farmyard animals has a stock in this bread so the hen enjoys it all herself.

bring me my cud!

no, but, really. you have to, at some point, maybe as with all things – tell yourself that you are not putting a seed in the ground and getting a smoked turkey & corned beef on rye with russian dressing & mustard, pickles and health salad on the side. (ahem: especially if you are the chicken. that would be a grotesque fantasy, indeed.)

i didn’t come out of the womb prepared to take on poetry, to make metaphor, to comprehend subtlety, irony, and sarcasm.


i put verbs in the ground in september. grow, i whisper to them, grow!


About scribblelip

walking down the road with a book of conjugations in my hand.
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3 Responses to february and the target language

  1. Brian says:

    What you write is so true. I mean, I cannot learn Spanish, and I’m starting to believe that it is a life long journey onto which I must devote my time and effort towards. I am truly amazed by your insight on such a mere topic of language, and how you can bring out the metaphor of poetry.

  2. scribblelip says:

    one thing that i’ve been picking up more and more is the importance of learning in sub-sets. first you start to recognize the basic order of sentences in the language you are learning. [like in english, the most basic possible sentence = noun verb. this happens to also be the case in french.] next, you start grouping types of words. you know, in language classes, we often think of memorizing things – heck, we have tests to pass! but, as you are doing that memorization, look closely at what you’re sticking in your brain. what commonalties are shared by adverbs or adjectives? how can you pick out a verb, even when it is conjugated in a form you haven’t encountered before? *these* are the kinds of things to pay attention to in writing and reading. making an active effort to engage your mind in seeing the patterns of sentences and commonalities of types of words will sharpen your listening… and this combination of efforts will relax the necessary elements in your brain that allow you to speak more fluidly.

    thanks for your comment, and great compliments, brian.

    put your verbs in the ground and take good care of them :] … and rock on.

  3. DSS says:

    I love health salad!!!!

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