Progressing with languages

I’ve just been spending some time in Disneyland Paris to practice my French. There is a lot more to languages than just knowing the words and being able to formulate sentences. You have to get the accent right so that you are emphasising the correct bit. You also need to punctuate your sentences correctly. Otherwise you end up with things that you didn’t technically order like this morning I wanted a cappuccino and a special eclair with nuts on but I got a cappuccino, special eclair (we switched to English to pick the nut one) and a nut coffee.

You can be excellent at learning and remembering words, you can study grammar but without practice you will never get past the intermediate level or the classic “broken” speech that so many people have. I am one of those artificial people in terms of speech as I work off scripts and it’s so formal that it’s an immediate giveaway. I would like to be better but it’s not one of my talents communicating.

You also need the desire as well as a need to communicate. I want to do this but I don’t have the ability despite having the intellect. You don’t need resources as many people around the world are polyglots without any money but you do have to like talking. Not only that, you need to like talking to strangers. I most certainly do not like that. So a lack of practice due to reticence will cripple any linguistic endeavour you may have.

What struggles have you come across in your life so far and how have you dealt with them?

Best wishes


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Athena Minerva

A place for me to write about things that concern myself and the world around me. Please check out my page on Amazon after you have finished my blog or drop me a line at

26 thoughts on “Progressing with languages”

  1. What do mean that you don’t have the talent of communication? I was rather impressed by your list of published books; thought to myself: well here is someone who can manage to get it out to the rest of us.

    I learnt Spanish during a full immersion period in Central America, but that was not the same Spanish I needed for getting along with neighbours in Spain, nor the same as needed to converse with well educated Spaniards around a dinner table.

    There are two aspects to it, I find. One is to ride a horse when you want to ride. There’s no two ways about it. You have get up on it and work it out. You have to open your mouth and give it full throttle – regardless of any reservation.
    The other is to impose your will on someone. People will switch into english (often a pidgin variety that’s much worse than your command of their language) or ignore you if it’s too troublesome. So you have to be willing to grab them by the force of your voice and will and hold their attention for the time it takes for you to speak your mind.

    It may sound ugly to force yourself on someone, even if it is exactly what we all do, but, perhaps for that same reason, you might find that people, strangers, actually enjoy it. There are a lot of nice people out there, many just waiting around to chat about anything, lifting each other in the process.

    Anyway, go for it, pay attention to their faces and try to register if you don’t actually contribute something positive to their lives that moment. I bet you will.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is a difference between communication and effective communication. I’m not good at body language which is the majority of communication. Speech is only a small part but it’s the bit that people pay most attention too. It’s why people stare at me when I start talking as it’s so quiet and indistinct. My diction is shockingly bad. My list of books may look impressive but that doesn’t mean I can persuade people to buy them.


      1. Your are probably right that the problem is that you speak quietly and indistinctly. It’s a common issue. That’s why I claim the real issue is the willingness to impose yourself on someone. It’s not a communication thing, but related to the feeling of having a right to be where you are and interfere with the world – at least that’s how it is for me. In southern Spain people can’t understand northern Europeans because we speak with such low voices (and without opening the mouth too much). The decibel level is incredibly high, people basically yell to each other here. When you speak like that you expose yourself and any weakness your Spanish may have, and you can’t help but wonder it the message is worth the trouble. But the people around you think so, they want you to speak and show yourself.

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        1. I’ve to learn not impose myself on people and interject all the time. What I have to say is not more important than anything anyone else has to say. Conversation requires you to take turns otherwise it’s a monologue.


          1. Sure, but that’s besides the point if you never engage in a intelligible conversation in the first place.
            There are people who hold Sanskrit sacred and claim that pronouncing its syllables holds the power to invoke whatever the syllable indicates. Doesn’t sound like much of a revelation when expressed like that, I forget why it used to be important to me. But the point remans that you can’t expect results if you speak another tongue in the way you’d speak your own.

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          2. Sometimes it works like when I asked for some bread and sometimes it doesn’t like when I was doing something more complex like asking how much it costs and where do you pay for the boat.


          3. One the most confounding aspects of speaking another tongue, I’ve had to realise, is that I don’t always understand what people say in my own language. That is when you have to impose yourself and repeat, loud and clear. Otherwise the exchange will end in aa awkward mumble to the embarrassment of both parts, and that is not encouraging for the next line.
            There’s a lot of responsibility involved in chatting someone up, but people frequently enjoy it. Generally speaking, people are much more open and nicer than one would think standing on the outside looking in (or on).
            Thanks for the chat, cheers.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. Oh my gosh the amount of times I haven’t understood people because of their accent is insane. People who haven’t experienced how cruel people can be always say that people are nicer than you think.


  2. I relate to this! I cannot speak to strangers right away, though classroom speech comes easy to me. I need to get a certain level of confidence to talk to strangers and that only happens after a long time of study.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. People seem to be confused that although I hold myself and others to almost impossibly high standards; I don’t always adhere to that. It’s for this reason that I don’t speak French or Greek. Those are the only 2 languages I’m any good at. Disneyland is however good for learning.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel you! I have really high standards too but when I moved to the US, I realized that my years of English study did not make me perfect. Only being in the environment comes closer to that. That made me feel a bit more relaxed.

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  3. Yes you’re right it’s not easy at all, the younger you are, the better
    I’m struggling to learn Spanish now, taking lot of time
    I was lucky I learned French at school, even though I lack practice but it’s there, the information comes back easily
    I guess you need a big motivation or reason to keep it up, I’m still trying to
    Thank you for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I too learned French at school but apart from basics I can’t do anything in the language. Luckily there isn’t a need or maybe that is precisely why I’m so bad. I learnt a little Spanish also at school but that is even worse.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. for me it wasn’t basics, it was the obligatory second language beside the Arabic this is why I can speak and write even if I lack practice nowadays since the working language in Lebanon is English
        I know some Spanish from booklets and my 2 brothers are in Mexico so I know few words but I need to learn more so I can communicate with their wives and families

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello there, at the moment working on English, but i like the progress, writing a blog helps a lot, it was easy to learn french a kid, as i get older it somehow slow down, specialy to learn grammar🌻🌼🌸


  5. Trying to get English-style tea in South America really doesn’t work. One time, I really thought I’d made it clear what I meant, in my best Spanish. Then out came a cup of hot milk with a teabag in it. After that, I gave up and accepted that I’d have to drink coffee for the rest of the holiday! And I tried to order a drink in Italian in Germany … my brain got as far as “not English” but kind of got lost after that.

    Liked by 1 person

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