Can’t I just speak French?


As I was out and about with a friend we were talking about where she might like to go for her next assignment. She said she would like to go where she can use her Mandarin skills. She’s been here for over a year and I give her credit. She has worked  hard to learn Mandarin which is one of the most difficult  languages and doesn’t want to waste the knowledge nor does she want to start over again with a new one. 

This got me to thinking about learning languages and the French that I learned in Switzerland. I took Berlitz lessons and when they ran out I had a private tutor. My family will tell you that I never gave myself enough credit for how much I spoke.  Based on my experiences in the month that I’ve been here I realize just how much I knew. EVERYTHING I want to say in Chinese I can easily say in French.  Having been in the States for the last three years, I thought I forgot a good portion of my French. Faced with learning another language, I realize it’s not true.  When I don’t hear English, whatever the language may be, French is what gets “turned on” in my brain. Hopefully in a year the Mandarin light bulb will turn on.

My  lessons are coming along well and I adore my teacher. She is the first Berlitz teacher that actually teaches to my style of learning. She has me figured out and knows how to get the best out of me. I gave up mahjong because if I change my lesson time I have to change teachers. E, my teacher, gave me a Mandarin tongue twister today! I told her about a problem I had at the market last week with the numbers 4 and 10. She said it’s a common problem and that there was a TT for it. I’m so excited because I am the queen of tongue twisters! Granted this is a Mandarin one but I’ll master it. Ask me the next time you see me!

I’m also sitting up front with Ben.  He doesn’t have to keep turning back to talk and when he speaks Chinese I can see his mouth. The differences in tones can be subtle and seeing him speak helps a lot.  I showed him the 4, 10, 14, 40 TT.  I said it for him, he laughed, and we sat at a red light and he helped me.

So I’m going to give lessons everything I’ve got, use Mandarin as often as possible, and not be shy about unleashing it on the public. If  I want to get the most out of my time here I need to throw caution (and ego) to the wind and just dive in.

I started this post before I left for my lesson. Now that I’m back and my head hurts…can’t I just speak French? 🙂

4PM – 89°


About vikarenously

I am an ex-pat living in Guangzhou, China. I am married to the man of my dreams who has indulged my love of travel by working hard enough to snag two international assignments. Oh yes, I also have two amazing children who accompanied us on our first one to Switzerland and are now mature and responsible adults which makes it so easy for us to experience this adventure as empty-nesters. Experience it vicariously with Karen.

8 responses »

  1. Come to Paris to visit me, then you can just speak French as much as you want!!
    (Yes I know, I am a bit behind with your blog but I wanted it as travel literature for the train.. I am on my way back from a nice couple of days in the Bretagne)

    • You know I would love to come to Paris. I think it’s hilarious that you wanted travel literature for the train and you saved the blog for that. I’m sure you had a great time in Bretagne. A little vacances before classes start? You deserve it.

  2. Yeah I struggle with this also now that I’m having to get back into using my extremely limited Spanish at work. When I don’t know a word in Spanish, my brain automatically just spits out the French word and I keep having to apologize to people and explain that I speak better French than Spanish haha. Although I did manage to help a Spanish-speaking parent who came into school today! The office called our ESOL room to have someone come to the office to translate and I was the only one in the room at the time so I had no choice but to go lol. It was a dad who needed to change his daughter’s bus for the afternoons because she was going to start going to afternoon child care. I got the new address and phone number of the child care and all of the other information that I needed from him and called the Transportation department on his behalf, got the whole thing sorted out and ALL in Spanish!! I was so proud of myself, and he was SO appreciative and sweet. Made me feel good. 🙂

  3. I know exactly what you mean. It is 13 years since we left Germany and I thought I had forgotten most of it, but what did i want to speak in Beijing? It is as you described, if they don’t speak English obviously the default is German!

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