Wordsworkinc's Weblog

Life, love and language

Plans crashed but I limp along regardless.

Je suis très mécontent. Managed to slam our vehicle into a concrete barrier after losing control on a patch of black ice.  As a result I won’t be able to make my planned coffee date at Alliance Francaise.  Guess I’ll just have to battle along on my own a little longer.  I’m nearly finished my first attempt at translating the French article and will go back to the beginning and start again, using a dictionary this time. French to English is really not the problem though, it’s English to French which I have trouble with.

Reading is only one of the four skills involved in communication, no matter what the language – the others are listening (which, together with reading is an ‘input’ skill), writing and speaking.   Listening (input) and speaking (output) are the most natural skills and the first ones learnt in childhood.  Writing, and therefore reading, are representational skills and have to be taught – however, for me, as an adult and a visual learner, I find learning vocabulary and grammar through the written word far easier.

Still, until I can actually speak and make myself understood, and listen and understand, I am not communicating – so I persevere!

December 11, 2009 Posted by | Learning a foreign language | | Leave a comment

And so it continues…

So far:

  • have continued with the article – more blanks as it gets more complex, but I want to finish as much as I can on my own before looking up any words.
  • have continued learning vocab on Intense Language Course
  • have continued to work (slowly) through the French course on BBC – only on the second section so far
  • have joined a French page on Facebook, and
  • have agreed to meet a friend at Alliance Français next weekend where I shall greet everybody and ask how they are: Bonjour, comment ca va? and then probably spend the rest of the afternoon gazing dumbly at my coffee and croissants!  Oh yes, I will be able to say goodbye when I leave: au revoir!

December 5, 2009 Posted by | Learning a foreign language | , | Leave a comment

Report back

Well, I didn’t report back last Monday, but, in fact, I have been quite faithful in keeping up with my French exercises and am laboriously working my way through a French article comparing French and American Universities.  I am quite pleased to find that my reading vocabulary has steadily increased.   The difficulty arises when I have to try to write out my own sentences and, sadly, my French bubble collapses completely when it comes to carrying on a conversation!


Fortunately I have a few brave friends, two of whom are native French speakers, on whose expertise I can draw, and one who is, I devoutly trust, working on the same article as I am so that we can (in words of one French syllable) discuss what we have read.


It occurred to me that the way I am learning is totally different to the way children naturally learn their mother tongue.  Reading and writing come a long way after listening and then speaking.  So I have gone off at a tangent, reading everything I can get hold of on how children learn to speak.  Once I have got my thoughts together I will write another article on the subject on this blog.  But for now, back to work …

November 30, 2009 Posted by | Learning a foreign language | , | Leave a comment

Just doing it!

Well, I’m not holding my breath, but so far, so good.  Each morning this week I have done one exercise and read one short article in French.  Not much, but much better than I have been doing!  Taking one step at a time and ‘just doing it’ without making any lists or setting any goals seems to be working for me.

I’ll report back on Monday.  Hopefully the weekend won’t derail my good intentions.  Anyone out there who would like to climb this staircase with me?  Remember that Martin Luther King Jr. said:  “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step”

November 20, 2009 Posted by | Learning a foreign language | , | 1 Comment


I was going to write this yesterday, but put it off while I thought about it some more!  Anyone who has ever been guilty of procrastination – a condition which I have elevated to an art form – will recognise the truth in these quotes:


Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.  ~William James


If it weren’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything done.  ~Author Unknown


or even
Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.  ~Robert Benchley

(I had a friend who knitted sweaters for her whole family when she was supposed to be studying for her finals).


There are any number of reasons given for procrastination. Some of the more common are:


  • Putting off a difficult task in favour of easier choices.
  • Telling yourself the task is too time consuming – you’ll do it when you have time to complete it.
  • Doubting your ability to do the task properly.  Avoiding the task = avoiding failure.


Facebook, email, weblogs (other people’s, not mine) and solitaire all take on an inordinate importance in my life when I have a task to complete.

Unfortunately, most of the advice aimed at overcoming procrastination are part of my arsenal of time-consuming delays.  I can spend hours making lists, prioritising, dividing large tasks into smaller tasks, filling in my calendar, etc, without ever getting around to actually doing the work.


All the above is just to explain why I really haven’t got much further in my study of the French language. (Although I do have lists of conjunctions, prepositions, numbers, seasons etc. decorating my study walls).


Making yet another attempt I’ve decided to abandon all the wisdom on overcoming procrastination, except maybe that of Martin Luther King Jr. – “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step”, or, as Nike would put it:



November 18, 2009 Posted by | Learning a foreign language | , , | 1 Comment

Two languages too much?

When I started learning Spanish I was already involved in studying French – not to speak but to read – and getting on fairly well.  Spanish I wanted to be able to speak. Unfortunately that means finding time for at least two people to sit down together to study.  Not happening!! So I’ve decided to learn Spanish as I learn French – 20 minutes a day, reading and writing.  So as not to get confused between the two I’ll continue to study French first thing in the morning and Spanish in the evening.  Let’s see how it goes!

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Learning a foreign language | , , | Leave a comment

Getting help

Found some help with our quest to learn Spanish on the BBC UK site.  There are 12 interactive units which give you the opportunity to listen, speak and write the basic phrases necessary to get by in the language.  More important for me is that it gives some structure to my learning.  Also using the French site to improve my French which is basically reading only (preferably one syllable words!)

September 27, 2008 Posted by | Learning a foreign language | | Leave a comment

Lentamente – slowly does it

I’m beginning to think that one of the main reasons we battle to learn a new language as we grow older is that we compartmentalize our learning.  If I can manage half an hour a day on my Spanish I feel I’ve done well.  Toddlers learn all day every day.  The only way we can hope to do the same is to move to Spain and immerse ourselves in the language.  Oh well, not going to happen in the near future, so will just have to persevere. Its a beautiful language!

September 12, 2008 Posted by | Learning a foreign language | , | Leave a comment

Is late language learning a trend?

Buenos dias amigos,

Hablo muy poco Espaňola. I speak very little Spanish – still! But I have learnt the all important phrase: ?Donde esta el baňo?, or where is the bathroom? (that first question mark should be upside down but my keyboard doesn’t do that). And when all else fails I can shout ayudarme! – Help!!

By the way, have a look at Sean Silverthorne’s article on baby boomers and the comments, a new generation of 60+ are apparently opting out of retirement in favour of a life long career/s and learning new skills – seems we’re just following a trend trying to learn a new language!

June 20, 2008 Posted by | Learning a foreign language | , , , | 2 Comments

First steps

Well, so far I can greet people: “Buenos dias!”, thank them for their help: “gracias”, apologize for my poor attempt at Spanish: “lo siento” and ask them, hopefully, if they can speak English: “Habla usted ingles?” I can also say “No hablo espanol” and “no comprendo”. Vital phrases, true, but not much to show for a week’s work. However, we plod on resolutely with photo’s of Costa Rica to encourage us along the way. Will report back at regular intervals.

May 26, 2008 Posted by | Learning a foreign language | , | 1 Comment