Don’t you hate it when a blogger introduces a post by apologising for only being able to write up something short and quick, because he’s been busy with school?
Well, anyway, vocational training aside, it’s been an exciting week for me, because I’m in the home stretch of Sandberg and Tatham’s French for Reading, which I’ve mentioned before. All the main lessons are finished, I just need to get through a final section of reading passages, which I’ll probably finish this week. After that, I’ll start taking my newly-gained ability into the wild, starting off slow with Le Petit Prince, then parallel-text editions of Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud, all of which I already own. Once I’m reasonably confident, I’ll order Les Miserables.
I’ve already started following a couple French blogs, and as I approach a level of basic literacy I’m starting to feel a great sense of accomplishment, comparable even to my trip to London last year. I’ve dabbled in German, Latin, and Spanish, took a couple years of French in high school, and have been wrestling with Japanese for four full years (or a bit less, if you deduct the past few months), but I’ve never really gotten close to real literacy in any of them. I probably could have done so coming out of high school if I’d stuck with French, but I don’t think I realised how quickly I could attain that goal if I’d just been more disciplined about it.
After three and a half years of Japanese, including two years of college classes at the beginning, I did see some progress there. James Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji was critical, but after a while all those kanji started blending together, and the progress stopped. The problem is fairly obvious; I had nothing to supplement it with, except some comics I’d imported or found used, like Yotsubato! or Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. That was enough to tell me exactly what I needed to do to succeed at language study, but I can tell I’ll have to come up with a more integrated programme to succeed at learning Japanese, which I’ll start on once I feel I have a handle on French.
I’m not just pleased with the result of hard work or something long-sought, though. I’ve believed for several years that every educated person should have a working knowledge of a second language. Logically, of course, one can separate an argument from the person making it, but I always felt like something of a hypocrite for espousing the need for bilingualism, while all I had besides English was a mere smattering of a language.
Though I do love Japanese and will continue with that shortly, I’ll also say that French, in particular, holds a special meaning for me, as I’ve become more aware and fond of Western civilisation and its traditions over the last several years. Besides, as a devotee of literature, how can I not love France? Victor Hugo, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud are big reasons why I wanted to study this language in the first place, and I can hardly wait to read them in their own words.