I had an unusual linguistic upbringing. Growing up, I heard mostly Greek at home (I spoke a mix of Greek and English). I also lived in a French province for the first nine years of my life. When I started school, it was at an English school, with French lessons starting in grade 1 (we eventually moved to an anglophone province, and I continued taking French until I graduated). My mom taught me the basics in Greek, and I had a very small amount of Greek school on weekends (I don’t think it amounted to a full year).
I never heard French at home, except when flipping past the French channels on TV. I never had anyone to speak French with outside of classes, and I only occasionally read anything in French. But I heard Greek constantly, spoke it often, and read and wrote it occasionally. I’d have conversations all the time with older relatives (granted, they did most of the talking, but I still felt I had a solid grasp of Greek). If anyone asked I would have said I was fluent in Greek and knew some French.
Then I decided to take lessons.
I had a language learning app taking up space on my phone, so I finally decided to give it a try to see if it was worth hanging on to. I chose French as the language to learn since I’d been wanting to improve my skills for a while. The app starts off by testing you to see how much you know. I breezed through the test and got to skip ahead to more advanced lessons. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I remembered and how easy much of it was (that said– keeping track of the gender of words and then adjusting all the words in a sentence accordingly is exhausting).
L’homme est canadien (the man is Canadian)
La femme est canadienne (the woman is Canadian)
Les hommes sont canadiens (the men are Canadian)
Les femmes sont canadiennes (the women are Canadian)*
(*These aren’t even the most complicated examples– wait until you need to start describing inanimate objects…)
It was great to find out that I wasn’t as bad at French as I thought. And since it was going so well, I decided I’d might as well improve my Greek while I was at it.
Considering Greek is technically my first language (I started picking up English as a toddler), that initial test was not as easy as I expected. Unlike with French, I did not get to skip ahead to more advanced lessons. I discovered I didn’t even know some basics– my vocabulary and spelling are much worse than I realized (but at least my conjugation is good).
After a few minutes on the app, I realized I knew only some Greek and quite a bit more French than I’d assumed. Not what I expected.
It turns out the formal French lessons that I had in school made an impression that’s stuck with me decades later. Meanwhile, learning Greek mostly by “osmosis” let me down. There’s something positive to be said about rote learning and formal education, after all.
My years of absorbing Greek haven’t totally gone to waste. The knowledge I’ve picked up has definitely made the app lessons easier (I’m seriously impressed by anyone who can learn this language from scratch). Since starting the lessons, however, I’ve already seen a major improvement, especially in spelling, vocabulary, and reading. I’m probably only up to an Elementary School level of proficiency so far, but I finally feel that I’m getting a real grasp on the language I’ve known all my life.
As someone who’s always been more inclined to learn on my own rather than take a class, this has been eye opening. It’s amazing the difference that actual lessons can make. I’m excited to keep using the app, not only to keep learning French and Greek, but also to expand on my two years of high-school Spanish, and– hopefully– to learn a new language or two. The next time I’m tempted to learn something new, I think I’m going to find a class to take instead of assuming I can figure it out myself.
How about you– have you taken any classes lately, or are there any you want to take? Share in the comments…
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One of my longtime dreams was to visit the lavender fields of Provence. In my mind, nothing could be more romantic; it was like a fairytale you could experience, something magical. And in 2015 I was lucky enough to finally be able to go. With surreal blue skies, cypress trees, castles, hills, Roman structures (some still in use so they can’t be called ruins), and, of course, lavender fields, Provence really is magical. When I was there my guide (Elodie of Provence Authentic) told me the fields are disappearing as farmers replace them with more profitable grapevines, which would be like Paris taking down the Eiffel tower to put up highrises. If you ever have a chance to visit the Luberon, the region where these fields were located, take it– while the lavender, and so much of the magic, is still there.
By the way, the smell was incredible. Forget whatever you think lavender smells like– there’s nothing like an entire sun-warmed field of these flowers.
In the next photo, you can just make out a castle on the hill in the background. Apparently it once belonged to the Marquis de Sade. When I was there it was owned by designer Pierre Cardin, who was raising money to restore it. I wonder how that went…
Some local wildlife…
Have you visited any lavender fields, in France or anywhere else? Share in the comments…
Want to read more about France? Download my FREE story Tooth & Claw, set in early 1900s Marseille, and inspired by actual events (there aren’t any lavender fields, but there are vampires.)
Since travelling right now is difficult, if not impossible, for most of us, I’m sharing pictures of my past trip to Provence, France. Why not be inspired by where we’ve been while we dream about where we’d like to go?
In June 2015, after years of drooling over pictures and other people’s stories, I finally had the chance to visit Provence. While I was there I stayed in Carpentras, a town in the Vaucluse region of Provence with a fascinating history, a fantastic weekly marché (market), and a name that’s really difficult to pronounce if you’ve never heard it before! Why didn’t this video exist five years ago?
It’s also the centre of the truffle trade for the region (unfortunately I was there too late for truffle season). I think it would take many visits at all different times of the year to fully appreciate Carpentras. For now, here are a few shots I took during my brief time there. Enjoy…
My favourite part of Carpentras was probably the Roman arch (located behind the Palais de Justice). Provence actually has many Romans ruins and structures (farmers still use Roman-built aqueducts to water non-edible crops like lavender!) If I ever get to go back, I’m going to take a tour of all things Roman 🙂
Carpentras also produces a local specialty called Berlingots:
They were invented by a candy maker who wanted to find a way to use the syrup left over from making candied fruit. Now Carpentras is known for them– make sure to pick some up if you ever get the chance.
What’s a favourite place you’ve visited? Share in the comments…
Want to read more about France? Download my FREE story Tooth & Claw, set in early 1900s Marseille, and inspired by a true story (did I mention there are also vampires?)