French People Have Feelings Too!

My quest to fluent French has reached a point that I unbelievably failed to anticipate. Clap slowly and sarcastically if you wish but I have realised that French people, to whom I speak French, have feelings.

It has been a game changer.

Until two days ago I spoke French. I spoke French but I didn’t do much else in the way of senses. In fact I dare say it is accurate to describe me as senseless for the majority of the cumulative time that I spent speaking the language.

When you speak a foreign language it seems you are one hundred percent focused on doing just that. You are either spitting out words hoping for the best or chewing over them as they grow weightier and weightier in your mouth the more the moment to speak slow fades away. Your thought processes, the synapses in your brain, every ounce of your energy, every brain cell and every nerve ending is alight with the endeavour of speaking.

Much, it appears, to the detriment of the other senses.

We know listening is important and while there’s been an element of that in my French interactions more often than not it is when presented with questions that I fall apart. My mind is simply too full of words to focus on the act of listening. The questions I am asked I can answer – they are not beyond me in terms of understanding – but they are out of reach because I have concentrated up to recently on one specific skill set. And I wonder why it has taken so long for me to feel as if the family really know me.

It makes me think about intelligence and how it plays into the learning of languages. The intelligences we usually malign – the emotional intelligence or creative intelligence or other sort – are the kinds of intelligences that I should have been employing these last couple of months. They have been missing from my French. My French has been an academic undertaking, and must have sounded like one all these years.

How dull!

Living in Paris, surrounded by my partner’s family, made the issue of emotional intelligence when it comes to languages very clear. It also made me cringe for how I seemed to have missed this completely for so long. Over the last couple of weeks I have witnessed great sadness and grief, loneliness, upset, joy and abundance and surprise. I have partaken in the events causing these feelings too and shared the experience through another language with people very close to my heart. And it struck me the other day that my French has never considered feelings. I have never spoken French which really took into account how other people are.

In English I do it. I look for the signs that someone is feeling off, feeling down, feeling proud and I change my language to suit that. It is natural and normal and kind to do so. How robotic I must have sounded in French to continue to respond to others as if their varying emotional states didn’t matter. I am embarrassed to think of how I must have come across and ashamed of the kindness, and the empathy, I have been shown despite this.

The other evening one member of my partner’s family was unusually quiet. Perhaps I am self-centred but my immediate thought was that this person didn’t want to speak with me because my French wasn’t good enough or because they were tired of me being around. It was only when my boyfriend returned and I took one look at him – tired from a long day, asking if he could be alone for an hour or so to relax – that it hit me. Someone not wanting to speak with me on a certain day is more than likely nothing to do with not wanting to speak with me and more to do with simply not wanting to speak at all.

The language of empathy and understanding. I need lessons in that I think before I duck back inside the covers of any French book.

Lesson learned.

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15 thoughts on “French People Have Feelings Too!

    1. « Others centered » !! I like this way of explaining it. And also, you’ve made me think: was my attitude to speaking French self-centered, even egocentric? You know, perhaps it was. All the focus of my energy and mind was on ME and how I felt and what I said. I tend to reserve the idea of selfishness for more ‘extreme’ acts but maybe it’s worth considering how our own behavior can walk a fine line too.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the compliment Arpita! I’ll be over to your blog later today too for a good read 🙂🙂 I really do feel embarrassed that I’ve been speaking like a robot all this time but now I also feel this sense of freedom like the family can finally start to see my true personality come through rather than just whatever words I’ve managed to learn that week. Hope you’re getting on well!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. It is understandable, be kind to yourself, you are doing so well! My husband is teaching me backgammon. While he can see the whole board and what both of us are doing, I tend to get stuck focusing on only my game, and often only one area of that, because the rest is too much to take in.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very reflective post and great insights. You say you do it in English, it’s natural and normal, I would venture that is not the case for many people even in their native tongue, communication; interpersonal and intrapersonal skills are underdeveloped and under valued.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know what? You’re actually right about that. Makes me think about EVERYTHING that actually goes into effective communication and what must goes on in our brains as we process and interact.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment; I appreciate the insight and your time in responding 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it takes a bit longer to develop that kind of emotional antenna in French. At first you are so stuck on the mechanics of the language that it is all you can do to speak and comprehend a minimum. Sounds like ou are moving onto the next, and far more essential, level. Many people never get there. Félicitations!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! I hope I am moving on to another level to be honest because I feel ashamed of my speaking abilities when I have known these people four years. I wonder why on earth they don’t warn you about the need for – as you so put it so well – emotional antenna when you are in school and have the ability and time to soak up more information!! Well, perhaps as a teenager I didn’t have any emotional antenna at all, never mind in French

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you!! I hope I am moving on to another level to be honest because I feel ashamed of my speaking abilities when I have known these people four years. I wonder why on earth they don’t warn you about the need for – as you so put it so well – emotional antenna when you are in school and have the ability and time to soak up more information!! Well, perhaps as a teenager I didn’t have any emotional antenna at all, never mind in French.

    Like

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