Saturday, 23 June 2007

Party Time!

We had a wonderful time this evening at a 'multi-lingual' party to celebrate Albert's birthday - four English, 5 Dutch and 9 French people all enjoying themselves! But, as usual, we came away feeling very inadequate language-wise.

Riet and Albert have had a villa in La Sesquiere for about 10 years and, having retired recently, are now moving down to live here permanently. They have always spent a lot of time here, join in with everything and anything and are really nice people who get on well with (and care about) everyone. The whole village is so looking forward to them being here full time!

What also sets them apart is that they speak French like natives. In fact Riet speaks about 5 languages whilst Albert must be into double figures - not because either of them worked within the language industry but because they feel you should speak other languages if at all possible! Their two adult children also speak English, French, German and I think Spanish (as well as Dutch obviously) just for starters.

In England, Richard and I were always unusual in being able to get by in a second language and everyone here tells us how impressed they are that our two children are totally fluent in French. We are obviously inordinately proud of them for embracing the life-change we inflicted on them but it is worth noting that most of the people in our village speak several languages. Tonight I sat next to Cyprian who mentioned that he 'only' spoke 4 languages: French, Spanish, Occitane and Catalan! What we also note is that they keep up the local languages in the home.

LeeLee speaks German as well but she feels that she does not get enough practise - so hopes to chat to Riet and Albert in German more in the future! Nicole will start Occitane (as an extra subject) in September and then Spanish the year after (her 'second language LV2' after English as LV1 in college). She is looking forward to being able to chat to some of her friends and their families who already speak these two languages at home - when she visits they change to French just for her! Both of our girls have found that by being immersed in learning a new language (French) they are finding it easier with other languages - they soak them up like sponges!
If only we in England could accept what an advantage this European attitude is! We might be an island, but we need to be able to compete within Europe!

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