Fruits of Labour for a week of learning French

It is about a week now since I and my wife started putting in serious amount of time in learning French. There is some fete (festival/party) going on in Geneva right now and we took our kids out there yesterday. This is the typical kind of place/occasion where I have great difficulty in finding my way through as no one talks English in these kinds of places. So, here is a very good opportunity to put into practice what I have learnt so far. Bennie Lewis in his ‘Language Hacking Guide’ recommends speaking with the natives as much as we can. So, this was a good opportunity to put his advice to use.

So, for the first ride, I tried to ask how much it costs and was able to understand what he said. Then came the challenge – for the next ride, I wanted to ask whether my 2-year old daughter is allowed to go for that ride. So, I tried to form a sentence using the words I have learnt – I figured out how to say ‘2 infants’ and he thought that I was asking whether I need to take 2 tickets for 2 infants and gave me 2 tickets. I tried to say it again using some English and French – but I couldn’t communicate it any better. So, I shrugged off and then went on to put my daughter in the car and then Voila, he understood what I have asked.

I was able to order a coffee and pay for it without talking a word in English – I was so happy that I could do it. Small victories like this go a long way in providing the motivation to continue in a challenging journey like learning a new language. By now, we have mastered the numbers up to 100, times of the day, days of the week, etc. So, I will have more practice sessions every day in the coffee shop/supermarket.

We were also trying to read the various billboards/notices in French and were trying to see whether we get them – yes, we got some of them. For the rest, I used the Google Translate App on my iPhone and got to know the meanings. The best learning is done in context – that is why I subscribed to 3G on my phone when I started learning French so that I can quickly exploit the opportunity to learn a new word in context. For many words, we could extrapolate the meaning based on the context. So, we tried to translate first what we see and then we call Uncle Google to see whether we got it right.

Then after the fete, we went to a restaurant and for the first time in my stay at Geneva, I was able to order what I wanted. I wanted to order an item which was not part of the standard menu and I was able to communicate it – another small victory; it seemed like a big victory though. We were able to understand most of the items on the menu – so, we are already getting the fruits for our labour and it is exciting to get some positive vibes after a week of tough times with learning French.


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