23 August 2011

Une Question

For a while now, I've been studying French. I've always loved the sound of the language, its romantic connotations. I never studied it at school, but I decided to start learning it a few years back at the local adult education. I have no real need to learn French, but it is something that I would love to say I could do. So I did 2 hours a week for 20 weeks, and learnt the very basics. And since then I've been going it alone. I am one of those people who is a sucker for language learning products. I have flashcards, CD's, books, podcasts, you name it, I have it.

Now you would think that after 3 years of, well intermittent, learning, with all these wonderful tools at my disposal, I would have progressed. And to an extent, I have. At best though, I would say that I am of an elementary level. Not full beginner, but not much further. My main problem, I think, is that I have no native speaker to practice with. You know someone to correct my grammar and pronunciation. And secondly, my study has not been daily.

I read about Steve Kaufmann the other day. This guy speaks ten languages fluently and he reckons he does it through daily immersion, and in a similar method in which we all learnt our first language. For example, I grew up in an English speaking home, so I became fluent in English because I constantly heard it spoken around me. He applies the same principles when he is learning another language. He watches foreign news and movies, he reads foreign papers and books, listens to foreign songs.

So what I would like to know is: is the only way you can really learn a language is to fully immerse yourself in it? As in, does one need to actually go and live in a French speaking country to become fluent? Or can you, if you are dedicated like this Steve Kaufmann obviously is, become fluent with all your resources around? Or does it depend on how you learn and your aptness for languages?

07 August 2011


Its been nearly 2 months since my last update, sorry about that! We've been zipping all over the place. Since coming home from our last post in Mareeba, we've been across to Penang, Malaysia for a holiday, home again and then up to the Gold Coast, for some work related education and then back again to Tasmania where we have been contracted to work on the wild west coast town of Queenstown for 6 weeks. From snow to tropics, our acclimatisation skills have been tested over the last few weeks.

Other Tasmanians will already know that it is not the best time of year to be posted in Queenstown. The winter here is brutal. If it is not snowing, there is ice an inch thick over the car in the mornings or it is raining. Queenstown is a small town of approximately 5000, settled in a valley at the base of Mount Owen, is gray and dark most days and is surrounded by these eerie bald mountains, known as the 'moonscape': a result of environmental damage caused by past smelting practices. It has a long history in mining and railways, with most of the residents in someway connected to either industry. I know I'm not selling it, but having said all that, it does seem to have a kind of austere beauty about it. In a Twin Peaks kind of way.

Anyway, there is only 2 weeks left here... yes its almost over before I've even blogged about it. Next stop? Port Hedland, WA.