Tuesday, 17 February 2004

Another new person started at French classes today, a Canadian girl called Liz. She was taller than me, which is notable because, being 6'3", that doesn't happen to me very often. I am enjoying the classes, but when I leave the building, the classroom French becomes real French, and it all becomes difficult again. The written form, reading and writing, is getting easier, since

  • there is time to parse & process the sentence,

  • it is a persistent form - I can read it over, or re-edit it

  • there is no need for the additional translation of sounds into words.

However, for normal conversation, i.e. the oral form, involving speaking and listening, it is more difficult.

  • The form is non-persistent, i.e. heard words fade, and words already spoken cannot be re-edited. This can be addressed by, in the latter case, stuttering, and, in the former case, asking the person to repeat the statement. However, this is not much fun.

  • There is generally an imperative to respond to someone within a reasonable time limit. This can be addressed using techniques from above, but its still difficult.

  • It is a two stage process - first the sounds are translated into a French phrase, then the phrase is translated into meaning, often (at my stage of learning) via English words.

Well, there's the academic version, anyway. Of course, the big catch is that the spoken form is far more important, since it is the most common form, and since it does not have the written form's facility for instrumentation (word processor, third-party editing).

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