Rarely do I come across a book that actually inspires me to alter my own style of writing in a dramatic way. But In Other Words did just that.
There are no spoilers here, so you can read on.
It’s bothersome when someone reviews a book and tells you too much. All I will tell you about is the first chapter, which you can download free over at Amazon if you’d like.
This book is about an American woman studying Italian. In the first chapter, she equates learning the new language to the desire to swim to the other side of a lake.
“For twenty years I studied Italian as if I were swimming along the edge of that lake. Always next to my dominate language, English. Always hugging that shore. It was good exercise. Beneficial for the muscles, for the brain, but not very exciting. If you study a foreign language that way, you won’t drown. The other language is always there to support you, to save you. But you can’t float without the possibility of drowning, of sinking. To know a new language, to immerse yourself, you have to leave the shore. Without a life vest. Without depending on solid ground.”
If you’ve ever studied another language, you understand.
She goes on to talk about taking her Italian dictionary with her to Italy:
“It becomes both a map and a compass, and without it I know I’d be lost. It becomes a kind of authoritative parent, without whom I can’t go out.”
And on the day in Rome when she realizes she left the dictionary at home and didn’t need it:
“I’m aware of a turning point. A sense of freedom and, at the same time, of loss. Of having grown up, at least a little.”
Even now, after speaking with Christophe for five years in French, I turn on the French TV channel and feel despair that I’ll never easily understand French like I do with English.
When you first begin learning a language, you have total enthusiasm. “I’m getting it! I can say hello, goodbye, please and thank you. I’m nearly bilingual!” Then you visit the country of the language you’re studying and you’re beaten down by an entire language made up of mumbo jumbo.
It’s like standing at a locked glass door.
You can see a whole world on the other side but you can’t get there.
My first fling with studying Italian was through Michel Thomas’ Italian Language course. Then I stumbled through the language row at the library. They were all good and bad for their own reasons. The only course that held any enthusiasm was Coffee Break Italian from Radio Lingua.
I’ve been revisiting my French studies now, too. And I had a dream last night that I spoke French to a Polish relative. She was looking at me like she understood everything I was saying… a skill mastered by expats everywhere. But she didn’t realize I wasn’t speaking English. My French accent was THAT BAD.
So it’s a process.
Anyway, if you plan on a road trip though the lavender fields of Provence, or think the beach of the Sorrento is in your near future, Coffee Break Italian or Coffee Break French might be worth trying out. Their podcast is generous with information and you can upgrade for a more robust experience.
In other news:
You’ve got 1 day to enter to win one of five copies of A PARIS YEAR over at Goodreads. That’s May 10th. Open to USA residents only. Sorry rest of the world. Don’t feel bad. I couldn’t enter either. But this means you don’t have Trump as President. Sorry other half of the USA.
You can pre-order A PARIS YEAR now and it will arrive at your doorstep around June 20th. (Pre-ordering is a great way to take care of those Christmas gifts early… plus it helps your humble author mightily.) It has a textured hard cover, gold inlay and sweet vibrant colour pages throughout. Check out the Fliptastic video over at Instagram.
Nice words from nice people about A PARIS YEAR:
“A Paris Year is the kind of beautiful book you want to hug against your chest.” —Samantha Verant, author of Seven Letters from Paris and How to Make a French Family
“Janice’s journey of a year in Paris is downright magical. A wonderful read!” –Lindsey Tramuta, journalist and author of The New Paris
“As much a treat for the eyes as for the soul. A Paris Year is a must for anyone who loves Paris.” –Lisa Anselmo, author of My (Part-Time) Paris Life: How Running Away Brought Me Home
Aw shucks. Thanks y’all. Pre-order at your fave book seller.