In the last month or so I started working on an assignment at work that required me to use my French language skills. A bit rusty, I’ve been trying to practice speaking a bit more with my parents and other francophone friends. I started thinking about language and how we learn it and realized that I never consciously learned French the way I learned Italian or Spanish in H.S. I guess it was similar to when most toddlers start comprehending and speaking I always remember speaking and understanding French. In fact when my mom often reminds me that although, I was born and raised in NYC, French was actually my first language. That’s what my parents spoke and since they were at that time firmly entrenched in a Haitian enclave of friends and neighbors that’s all I heard around me. According to my mom I didn’t start really speaking English until I went to pre-K when I was four. Go figure, I remember learning how to read and write English and French in school but comprehension was always there. Similar to Haitian-Creole which I always remember understanding without any difficulty. I was never formally thought Creole (Kreyol) but similar to French it was spoken around me since infancy and I guess I just absorbed the language in that part of my brain.
I’m heading to Bamako, Mali now via Paris and although I haven’t spoken French on a regular basis since my trip to Brussels last Christmas it’s all flooding back in. Wish me luck as for the first time in my career I’m actually going to be conducting meetings in French. Gasp! I’ve only had to speak to friends and family in French since I graduated from college so we’ll see how forgiving these clients are at my accent and grammatical mistakes.
This is my first trip to sub-Saharan Africa so I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stuff to blog about over the next month.