Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Language learning / unlearning

I’m coming to realise what a negative view I have of language learning (in common with most Scots, I believe) and how different that is from most Rwandans. Conversations seem to easily flow between Kinyarwanda, French and English with no sign of strain. At dinner one night, a young nurse who was struggling with English was advised by someone else to “just speak out the words and if you don’t know one, use a word you do know”. I explained that in the UK “franglais” is not a compliment on your progress, but a rather derogatory term for a hybrid language. Two sides of the same coin, but a very different approach in Rwanda. Perhaps it is because Kinyarwanda shamelessly borrows words from English, French and Swahili – “chauffeur”, “parish offerings”, “escalier” as examples.

I also came to understand this week that when I use French and people do not understand it is not always because my language skills are inadequate (although my French is still a bit limited). It may be because the other person’s French is not that great. Blindingly obvious now that I write it, but as I said at the start, an indication of what goes on in my (our) head when we start to speak another language.

No comments: