October 31st, 2007

dw//kitty!! - cheesygirl

Bonjour, je m'appel...

so there's this kid being featured on the BBC news this morning who's being called a 'Boy Genius' because he can speak 10 languages. Impressive. Except... can he? They have this little soundclip of him saying "Bonjour, je m'appel [name cut]" and his accent sucks. I'm not French, I'm not Quebecois, I'm not North African, French is not my mother tongue. It is, however, the first foreign language I learned and trust me, his accent sucks out loud.

I can read eight languages. I can speak three semi-fluently (four if you count English), and with a little exposure I'm sure I could speak the others as well.

It's a knack, I'm a linguist. I have that little switch in my brain that lets me pick up languages and extrapolate meaning, sentence structure, basic grammar. Learning a language by rote is not learning a language, it's memorising phrases like "where is the swimming pool?" and "Thierry! That's bad for your teeth!"* which doesn't exactly help you when you're in the situation where you have to make yourself understood in a real life situation in a strange country.

This kid has a good memory, clearly, but from listening to him? He's learned by rote. So, sorry kid, but you don't come across as a linguist.

(Dude, why am I working at a job I hate where I don't get to flex my mental muscles? I know I'm good at languages, so why don't I get to use that?! Gah!)

*"Thierry! C'est mal pour les dents!" was one of the phrases we had to listen to on a language tape when I was in second year at school.