Category Archives: Language

Learning on the Road

Céline lives in a wooden-floored one bedroom in a historic pans de bois building in Troyes, with pencil sketches on the walls and multicolored tins of tea lining the shelves. I’ve couchsurfed before, but this is the first time that I’ve gotten off the train to find someone waiting for me with a big smile and bisous, complete with a black bicycle and beret.

Troyes, in Champagne, pulls its charm from medieval houses and cobblestone streets, but I enjoyed it most because Céline took me through the side alleys and her friends’ shops. She bought raw, whole milk (creamy, but tastes like… milk), described the best local cheeses, and explained why a passing bachelor was enrobed in a burlap sack. But possibly the most interesting thing about Céline was her travel plans:

Every vacation she takes, she plans to learn something. Continue reading

Home Away from Home

“I do think it needs some bells and whistles… Do your own design jiggery-pokery.”

“Tight-fisted frogs!”

“I was buying some Wheetabix, the best breakfast cereal there is. The Queen eats it, of course I have to eat it. It has the Queen’s seal of approval on it!”

All these quotes come from one source; a former British boss of mine who first gave warm-and-fuzzy thoughts about that island across the channel. Add another excellent Brit-import boss, two years working with University of Nottingham, a couple sun-filled London vacations, and a year in a “latin europe,” and you get an odd result. Despite my accent and upbringing, I felt like I had just come home from the moment I stepped off the train in London last Wednesday afternoon.

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Fromage Friday: Pavé Carvinois

My fromager has figured me out. After months of showing up at the cheese counter, standing behind the line for 5 minutes just staring at the case, he’s started giving me little tidbits of information when I choose a cheese completely at random.

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What is Fluency?

After living in France for a year and studying the language for nearly 20, a lot of English and French speakers ask me “are you fluent now?” I have to hold back incredulous laughter every time.

A 2006 moment of incomprehension.

The dictionary defines fluency as “using a language easily and accurately,” “masterfully,” or “effortless.” But the definition of fluency for people who speak any part of a second language is as wide as the Atlantic Ocean. I perch on the perfectionist end of the scale; defining fluency as complete comfort in the language in all settings, including slang, politesse and even political jokes. By that definition, I could become fluent in French and potentially lose it simply by moving out of the country, or becoming an old fogey in France.

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