Elizabeth Zephyrine McDonough: The Trouble With Learning French
Huffington Post - over 4 years
The words that one learns passively in a given language (that is to say, out on the street or simply through repeated and unsought auditory repetition) are often reflective of deeper cultural values and attitudes. In France, more often than not, this attitude is pessimism.
The first several times that "deçu" ("disappointed") came up in conversation, multiple people told me that it would be a "very important word to know." Similarly, the words for annoyance, boredom, depression and unemployment were impressed upon me with equal urgency on the part of the French, and with little to no inquiry on my part. Another vital one was "malheureusement" (translation "unfortunately"). It may sound like a big word, but I was quite familiar with it after only a few days of being in Paris.
Though at the time, I still may not have been able to properly order the type of coffee I wanted or explain to someone that I hadn't taken French classes since high school, I was more than capable of
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