Monday, November 03, 2008

The language we speak

Now that we are living in France, a lot of people feel amaze that me and hubby still speak to each other in English. They think that for my sake, we should switch to French so that I can pick up the language as fast as possible.

The idea of switching to French only crossed my mind once. At that point I did not work and stayed home most of the time. I can go without speak any French for a long period. However, despite the fact that I don't speak good French, hubby chose to speak English with me, as it is the language when we first met. I gave in as most importantly, both of us want to practice our English as much as we can.

By going back to the workforce, I interact more and more with the French and have to speak French almost everyday. Even though it would still be logic to speak French at home, I still think that having a break from French is necessary for me. I do not want to force myself too much. I think my energy quota of learning a language has long run out in Malaysia, having to learn three languages and different dialects at the same time. So, sure I could have spoken better French if I spoke French with hubby, but, just give me a break, let thing comes naturally.

I like the way we are now: speak English for serious stuff, tease each other with French or Chinese. One day we were teasing each other with mixing up the three languages, I got totally confused by what hubby was trying to say: shoe. Coincidentally the sound of "shoe" is quite close to the French "chou" = cabbage or the Chinese "shu" = book. I had to ask him three times to get what he wanted to say. It's fun speaking "rojak" = mix language again like what we do in Malaysia! :-) Sometimes hubby would come out with words in Malay (satu roti canai!) and Hokkien(my family language) by imitating the persons he learnt the words from and it really cracks me up!.


  1. Bee Ean,

    When my husband came to the USA to live with me, after meeting in San Francisco during a business trip, I insisted that we always speak French together because if we lived in the USA and spoke English, I would lose my French--which I was unprepared to do.

    I reasoned that he lived in the USA and worked, so survival would demand that he speak English with the outside world, especially since many of his coworkers were native Spanish speakers. I also kept an ear on his English and reinforced it if he needed help. He has trouble with double negatives and will "disconnect" from English if it doesn't concern him directly.

    I am a much for engaged and assertive language learner. Thus, I always ask about words and des tourneurs de phrase. He, on the other hand, is more casual about his 2nd language acquisition.

    That said, I have pretty much decided to speak to him in English when we complete our move to France so that he does not lose what he has gained and so that other people do not understand everything we say. In France, when I use French, I will be forced to censor what I say much much more than I do in the USA.

    I believe that you are wise to speak English with your husband since that is the language in which you fell in love, as it were, and to accumulate your French at work and in the outside world--which, as you say, you can then use with your husband when you feel like it, but with no pressure.

    It's amazing that you also had to learn 3 dialects/languages in Malaysia. Is your family ethnic Chinese in Malaysia? So, you speak Chinese, Malay, and a Chinese dialect or a Malay dialect? That must have been difficult and tiring sometimes.

    My coworker's mother's family was ethnic Chinese in Vietnam and my coworker spoke Vietnamese in Vietnam until she was 9. Now her English is better than her Vietnamese.

    My dream is to speak Spanish well before I die. I have studied it, Italian, and Japanese, in addition to French but French is my strongest additional language. I have the texts shipped to my home in France for German and for Brazilian Portuguese. I would love to learn a few words before I'm 80!!!

    Vive les langues etrangères!!!

  2. La Framéricaine,

    Yes I'm ethic Chinese from Malaysia. We speak a Chinese dialect at home. I went to Chinese school so I spoke Mandarin with friends but Malay and English were mandatory too. Then I pick up another Chinese dialect from TV. At that time, learning English and Malay were a tiring process since I don't use them much growing up.

    Wow you are so enthusiasm about learning different languages. Have you ever thought of learning Chinese? Why do you want to move to France since your husband has been in the USA for 20 years?

  3. The same reason anyone else would like to--the healthcare. Actually, my place of employment has provided the HMO Kaiser Permanente as the healthcare provider and I have great appreciation for their services.

    However, in the USA, your health insurance is directly connected to your work. Le F has no insurance because he is self-employed. Our insurance--medical, dental, vision, and legal--all come from my work.

    My husband will become 72 on Monday and he cannot quit working if we stay in the USA and I must work in order to keep us in insurance. I will be 56 on Dec 3rd. Thus, as Le F is a French retraité, he has medical coverage for both of us in France as well as a stipend.

    It's the economy, but also the community support and the quality of life in France that is bringing us back. Not to mention that I have spent a great deal of my life learning to speak French and I would like to use it one day living in France!

    Amitiés et bon courage au travail!

  4. hahaha!!! Your and Hubby's "Royak" is like our "Sprenchlish"!!!


  5. La Framéricaine,

    Ok thanks for the explanation. I thought in US when you retire you still get insurance coverage. I wish you an easy transition to France. :-)


    Yes it is fun to mix up the languages. There are times only both of us know what we were talking about and others will be guessing what languages we were using.