Hola, habla ingles? No. Habla Frances? No. No problemo! This is how many of our conversations begin with different ones that we encounter throughout our day when we feel like taking a break from Spanish. As you may imagine the answer to these questions is usually no. We knew that learning and being willing to speak different languages would be a big part of our life here. But we may not have realized how big a part it would play. It’s safe to say that many in our French group are learning the French language. There are however several native and fluent speakers in the group. However the default language is Spanish, naturally. Many are happy to practice their French with us and are eager to improve. In service we have spent entire evenings speaking in French and our service partner speaking in Spanish. Or we have been speaking in Spanish and our service partner was speaking in French. This helps us both improve our speaking ability. As we are adjusting to life here we are seeing the areas where we will need to apply ourselves that may not have been immediately obvious before. Aside from becoming proficient in conversational Spanish we will need to become learn to speak French in a way that someone Spanish learning French can understand us, in addition to speaking in a way that our thoughts can get through culturally. J We are also slowly seeing the need to learn a bit of Bombara and Wolof, which are spoken by people from Mali and Senegal. As we have noticed in the U.S. something interesting happens to people that move here from Africa after sometime. They begin to forget how to speak French! This usually happens to ones where French was their second language because they are too busy speaking and learning Spanish and in the home they speak Bombara or another native tongue.
The only time that we speak English is when it is just the two of us! The other day we ran into a couple from the English congregation. It was interesting to listen to them. Their English was strongly shaped by English from Africa because that is where most of their studies are from. At the same gathering there was another conversation going on with a brother from the Canary Islands who used to be in the French group and also spoke some English. So we would talk with him switching back and forth between English and French every few minutes! It was quite a sight to have all of these languages being spoken at the same time! All of this has made us appreciate even more the work that the organization does to make Bible truth available in the language of people’s hearts! It is humbling to be in a position to not know how to communicate everything that you would like but it is also a wonderful testament to Jehovah’s people that we somehow are still able to understand each other! J
“K’s addition” I’m in a decline at the moment with my French. Trying to learn Spanish and speak French, often with the friends who switch mid-sentence into Spanish, have me confused lol. I’m mixing a lot of words and second guessing myself a lot as I seem to be thinking in French but then Spanish words come to mind. Sometimes I don’t even know if I’m speaking Spanish or French! It’s quite frustrating! Plus as I’m trying to learn Spanish I’m repeating others but in the process I’m also starting to mispronounce French…sigh… When the CO came, his wife thought I couldn’t speak French! By the end of the week , she said I spoke well despite my American accent lol. Oh that’s another thing I’m getting used to, many don’t understand me in French. They are not used to hearing my accent and so I have to repeat myself a lot. At first this was also contributing to my second-guessing myself, but now I realize that it’s my accent that they don’t understand. However, I am very determined to learn Spanish so that I can communicate with the friends here. Most do well speaking French at the meetings and in service but when it comes to conversation, it can be difficult and even those who are fluent speak in Spanish most of the time.