April 12, 2005

Lucia comes to stay

Ellie's French exchange partner arived the other day, and now I'm subconsciously translating everything I say into French. It's wierd. I have to consciously think, and stop myself talking French,for fear that I'll sound patronising, reminding myself that Lucia is here to learn our language, and reminding myself of my own experiences on an exchange. My French improved dramatically when I was away, and I was perfectly happy with people speaking to me in a language I couldn't understand. I also understood a lot more than I realised I could before I went away. So to be perfectly honest, Lucia (who is actually bilingual anyway, speaking Spanish fluently as well as French,) can probably understand the sentences I could manage to say in French perfectly well if I'd said them in English.

All the same, I still feel very aware of the complexities of my own language as soon as I am placed in a room with someone for whom English is not their native tounge. I don't want to seem patronising by altering my language to any large extent, but I'm never quite sure just how much I should alter my language for the sake of comprehension.
When I was in France, I didn't take offence if anyone spoke to me a little in English, or if they slowed down or anything, but then, the balance of power was different. I was the one in a strange country, and I was younger than anyone else. I've never been comfortable being in a position of power over anyone else, so being the one slightly at a disadvantage was perfectly fine for me. And to be honest, I wasn't struggling that much – my knowledge of French was better than my partner's knowledge of English, so French was easier to get along in. Pas de Problem.
It's different when you're the one in charge, as it were. As the host, you're the one regulating the conversation – unless you have a fairly exceptional exchange student who will take the initiative. So you don't want to be too challenging, or too patronising. Personally, I'd rather be the one who just has to worry about understanding it all.

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