5 reasons why I’m not going to learn French!

This is me trying to learn French on my iPhone This is me trying to learn French on my iPhone

One of the reasons we embarked on this nomadic adventure was to learn another language, or at least pick up enough to be able to converse with the locals. It’s always been one of those things everyone wants to do, right…learn another language? How romantic it would be to whisper sweet nothings in Sarah’s ear in French, and all that mumbo jumbo! Since leaving Australia in April we’ve lived in Chiang Mai for two months and now France for what will be at least six months. The rest of the time we haven’t really spent enough time in the country to pick up any of the language.

Guess what? I have hardly learnt any French or Thai, and guess what else? I’ve decided I’m not going to bother. Why? I’m glad you asked…

I can’t be bothered to learn French

If I could be anything in the world it would be the lead singer of a band, rocking to full stadiums while whaling on my Fender Stratocaster. I’d be the king of the world, feeling invincible while bucket loads of awesome adrenaline was flowing through my veins. But I’m 41 now and haven’t even gone close to realising that dream. Do you know why? Because I haven’t committed to practicing the guitar for hours every day, and nor do I have the a) confidence, b) talent, or c) desire to get signing lessons for hours on end every week either. So if I can’t be bothered doing the one thing that would make me the happiest person on Earth, why would I be bothered learning how to speak French!

I’m too busy to learn French

Photo source: Flickr - Eneas De Troya

Photo source: Flickr – Eneas De Troya

We might be on this adventure travelling the world, but it’s not like we’ve gone to a beach resort for a week to relax then head home. This is now our life, and with that we have commitments. We have a couple of mortgages that we’re trying to service while doing this, and let me tell you, that’s not easy. Our bank account is being drained and we’re scrambling to keep our heads above water. So we’re constantly trying to get as much work as possible from oDesk.com to keep some cash coming in. We’re also housesitting until mid-March next year, and with that comes added responsibilities. The place we’re looking after is an enormous chateau with huge grounds, barns, gatehouse, worker’s cottage, fruit orchid, pool house, the list goes on and on. The upkeep on this place keeps us occupied for at least a few of hours every day as well. So with our oDesk work, housesitting responsibilities, looking after our two year old son, doing all of the normal day to day activities like shopping, house cleaning, sleeping, etc., I simply have no time to learn French, even if I could be bothered!

I can’t afford to learn French

I know, I know. There’s plenty of Smartphone apps like Duolingo, or online guides to help you learn how to speak another language without paying for lessons. But let’s be honest, if you’re going to learn a language properly, you need a teacher to deliver properly structured classes and correct your mistakes, and have other people to practice with. Unless you’ve got someone very nice to commit to teaching you properly, then that means paying for lessons. As I’ve already mentioned, we’ve got other financial commitments to focus our attention on first.

Learn French…what’s the point?

Even if I had the desire to learn French, could afford to learn French, and had plenty of time to give it the commitment it needs, the truth is I’m going to be in France for about six months before I move onto the next country. I’ll probably never step foot in another French speaking country again, at least not for long enough to warrant spending the time and money to learn the language. If I started learning French, here’s what would happen. I’d pick up a few phrases, then start using them when I was out and about like at the supermarket, blabbing something out like “noix de macadamia se il vous plait (macadamia nuts please)?” And guess what would happen? The supermarket employee would start explaining where the macadamia nuts were in French, of which I wouldn’t be able to understand anything, and I’d be back to square one!

I’m too old to learn French

Photo source: Flickr - Kat N.L.M

Photo source: Flickr – Kat N.L.M

Ok, this one is a bit of a cop out, and to be honest, it’s probably here just to add a bit more body to this blog post. But it does have some merit. Scientifically speaking, the older you get the more difficult it is to learn new complex skills..hence the adage about old dogs and new tricks. Of course with the right desire and commitment anything is possible, even learning new languages. But as I’ve already mentioned, I don’t have the passion, time or financial means to learn French properly, which would make it even more difficult for this old dog to learn this particular trick.

So there you have it, my reasons for not learning French, or any other language while I’m on this nomadic adventure for that matter. This could all change of course if we fall in love with a country and decide to live there for the foreseeable future. If English is not the common language, then I will do everything in my power to learn the language. It would be arrogant not to, and knowing the language would make life much less stressful and frustrating. But for now, I’m going to concentrate my efforts on other things, and leave the language learning for another time.

9 Comments on 5 reasons why I’m not going to learn French!

  1. Wow. This article was quite painful to read.

    There’s more to learning French, or any other language for that matter, than simply going to a country where it’s spoken. As a nomad, you’ll encounter countless people who speak various languages. Your ability to communicate with them in their language, even if only to cough up a few memorized words, will take you so far in your relationship with that person.

    There’s a special bond created between two people who communicate for the first time in the same language. It’s a magical moment where one person thinks: “wow, they respect me and are making a great effort” while the other thinks: “I’m so happy this person understands me”. This is something you will completely miss out on if you don’t bother learning your destination’s language.

    There’s another well-know secret amongst us multi-linguists, being able to read something in a foreign language lets you discover things which aren’t published in English, such as “half-off all-you-can-eat on wednesdays between 1pm and 3pm”. You will NEVER discover these types of things if you don’t bother learning the language.

    I strongly encourage you to make an effort and adapt to your host country’s language. It will pay off in so many ways, and your life will be better. Nobody ever said: “I regret learning X language”, except that time I understood some Japanese women talking dirty in a café. That’s the only time I wish I knew less.

    Good luck in your travels, and please reconsider this decision.

    PS: I’m in my 30s and learning my 5th language. You have no excuse.

    • Hi Alex, I’m glad the article had an effect on you. I’m impressed you know so many languages, you must have a real gift for learning them. I understand exactly where you’re coming from, and under different circumstances I’d be doing everything to learn the language. But the lack of time, money and real desire means I’m not going to. I probably know about 100 French words including common greetings and phrases, and that breaks the ice generally. But I take your point, life would be a lot less complicated and frustrating if I knew French. By the way, that time in the Japanese cafe would have been the time I wished i DID know the language…not that I would have known what they were saying in the first place! Good luck with your travels too…

  2. I also want to address each of your arguments individually:

    1. Learning any instrument/language/sport is not the same as mastering them. You don’t need to be perfectly fluent in French, knowing the basics, some useful vocabulary and key phrases will take you much further than being ignorant. Your assumption is you’ll fail, before even starting. Common’ man.

    2. I’m also ridiculously busy. I run a company and web service and have bills and 2 offices and staff too. So what? I buy used books which cost $1-5, sometimes borrow them at the library for FREE. One hour a day is all you need. You can NOT tell me all 24 hours of your day are spent actively doing something very important.

    3. No teachers. I’ve tried a few hours with some Japanese and Korean teachers. They were only useful to get me started, but the rest is all self-taught through cheap books, apps and any other material I can find online. One trick is to have a study partner. Study with your wife and help each other.

    4. French is the language is love. Everywhere you go in the world, you will meet people who speak this beautiful language. Moroccans, Algerians, people from Cote d’Ivoire, French Canadians, Haitians, Belgians.. They are everywhere, I’ve even met some Korean women who speak French! Being able to say “please”, “thanks” and “where is” in French can take you a long way. “Ou est le bathroom” will be understood by every French speaker you meet. I promise.

    5. You’re ONLY 41 and already giving up on learning? That’s insane. You need to keep your brain active and continue learning. Language is the best way to keep your mind fresh and active. The more you learn, the easiest it gets anyways. Stop now, stop forever. Do you think starting to learn a language at 50 will be easier if you haven’t learned a language between 41-50 ? Hah. You also have to realize that many languages have similarities. Once you know French, you’ll be able to pick up Italian and Spanish so quickly. If you know Japanese, then learning Korean or even a Chinese language will also be much easier.

    Anyways I hope this gives you an idea of why you NEED to learn languages, particularly the one from your host country. It’s not too late, too expensive, or too time-consuming unless you want it to be.

    • Thanks for the lecture Alex, not that I asked for it! As I’ve already mentioned, I know a few phrases and plenty of words. I just don’t have the desire to learn the language. Nothing wrong with that. I don’t need to be spoken down to just because you love learning languages. Secondly, I know what it’s like to be ridiculously busy. I’ve owned businesses before, I work full time, I have a child to take care of. I don’t need to be told how to spend my time, I’ll use that one hour you think I have spare for something else thanks. And finally, I take great offence to your suggestions I’ve given up learning at 41. I can assure you Alex I most certainly have not, I was merely stating a scientific fact. I will use my precious time to learn exactly what I want to learn, not what you THINK I should be learning. I don’t NEED to learn languages Alex, so please, if you don’t mind, take your arrogant, condescending attitude somewhere else!

      • Oh.. I’m sorry I didn’t intend my comments to be condescending towards you.

        I actually wrote them with excitement and joy, hoping I could encourage someone to make an effort to learn a new language. Please forgive me if this was misinterpreted as arrogance or disrespect towards you. It truly wasn’t my intention, please forgive me for that.

  3. Just what I’veen looking for, you’re absolutely wright, I’m a spanish native speaker and I’ve been trying to learn french.. until I asked myself “why to make this effort?” “Is it worth it.”. An I just found the answer in your post:
    “the truth is I’m going to be in France for about six months before I move onto the next country. I’ll probably never step foot in another French speaking country again, at least not for long enough to warrant spending the time and money to learn the language. If I started learning French, here’s what would happen.”

    Thanks a lot.

    • Haha, I’m glad I could be of assistance! So many people say you must learn another language for the sake of it, but unless I’m going to use it then I’m not interested.

  4. Hahaha! My husband and I took German classes from the local community classes and did fairly well but the problem is if you don’t continue speaking and practicing you forget (esp. as we get older; he in 60’s, me in 50’s). Although we alway try to learn a few phrases (please, thank you, hello, bathroom etc) we feel the same way as you do and we are lucky enough that many countries people speak English and there are always the apps to translate those pesky menus! :0) Happy Travels!

    • We were the same. We learnt a few phrases to get by, and going to the supermarket a couple of times a week certainly helps to learn more! I just read they’ve developed ear pieces that translate what is being said into your native language. Technology will eradicate the need to learn any language soon!

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