Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Linguistic thoughts ...and tender souvenirs.

I studied languages : English, Italian, Russian. 
I even spent some siesta's hours in Latin lessons. 
Rosam, rosa, rosae, rosazzzzzzzz …

One of my parent's cat. Nicknamed Garfield...

I had a goal, more than a dream : to live in Italy.

When I was a child, I had the chance to meet my great-grand mother.

She was Italian and I loved to spend hours with her.

It’s strange, when I think about it.
She was living in a small house, in the south of France. A fairy tale house, you know.
But not a princess’s house ! The witch one ! Old and crooked.

Not this one, believe me ... This is "just" my dreamy house. I'm totally in love with her.

She was wearing flowery overalls with apparent socks just under knees and she loved sponge fingers because she only had one teeth.
The wood stove's smell used to perfume the principal room, in winter and summer, because she cooked on it. 

Her small garden was a GardenLand, for me. There were monstrous snails in this garden and I spent hours to push on their eyes, just to admire how they could retract them.
I used to lay down on a deckchair for long minutes, waiting for the thousand flies to walk on my legs and arms. It was giving me such a very pleasant tickling feeling.
This is funny, I still remember this feeling with heat, sun and flies and quietness …
Call me weird.

I’m not sure she used to talks a lot. And I don’t remember her voice, today. But I know we used to talk.

Then, a couple of years ago, my grand-mother (her daughter in law) told me :
“When you were a child, you loved to stay with Mamé.
-        Yes, I know.
-        You never had difficulties to understand her.
-        ??... What do you mean ?
-        She was talking in dialect. It was very difficult for me to understand her. For sure, Papi (my grand-father, her son) used to. But you too. And this was so strange.”

I was really surprised.

Because, for me, as a child, I never imagined my great grand mother was talking to me in Italian dialect. She used to talk to me and I used to understand and reply to her. No idea in which language.

I realised she used to talk to me in dialect, that I understood and I used to reply in French, that she understood.

Language is not a barrier. It’s a magical way to communicate, which is innate. 

I know I'm saying something evident.

My friend Casanova’s children speak English, Italian and a little bit of Russian, naturally.
We are able to speak different languages.

I don’t know if talking to my great grand mother gave me easiness to speak Italian. But when I lived over there, I was thinking in Italian, I was dreaming in Italian. Some words were coming to my brain in Italian and not in French anymore.

And here are my questions : do you think it’s possible to forget our native language ?
And if not, why a language is set in our brain for ever ?


  1. Dear Axelle-What a sweetly reflective post. And such a beautiful dream house. I think we can forget our native tongue if we don't hear it or use it after a long time. But, I also think it is still in our brain somewhere and we will recall it as reminded. I think language is a God-given gift. It we are not careful with it it will degenerate and we will waste that gift. My grandmother always reminded us to use good grammar, and to pronounce words correctly, and to write letters (and to sew and knit and lots of other fun things). I'm very grateful for that and have encouraged my children as well. Thank God for languages and a way to communicate with one another. What a precious memory you have. Thank you for sharing it. Regards-Jamie

    1. Dear Jamie, your grandmother was right ! It is so important, in my opinion, to use good grammar and good words. In France, we're living a loss of "good writing". Children and teenagers don't know French Language either. French is a hard language, even for us, I have to say. But, for example, when, at work, I receive an email from a boss, full of french mistakes, my hairs come right on my head ! :)

  2. "sponge fingers"? Do you mean "lady fingers"?

    I studied a few languages and also linguistics, at the university, and I can tell you one thing for sure: the brain is a very weird thing :) Yes, you can forget your first language completely, it depends how long you spoke it and how old you were when you stopped speaking it. But sometimes, it will come back very unexpectedly, when, for example, someone suffers from Alzheimer's or other brain problems/accidents. I can also tell you that I don't consider myself a native speaker of French anymore: I spoke French for many years as I was growing up, but my "education language" and "work language" is English only, so there is a whole part of my life that doesn't exist in French. Once, someone asked me to translate articles from academic journals from English into French and I thought it would be easy but it turned out it was impossible :( On the other hand, I don't have any knowledge of the "child's language" in English, so that also makes me a non-native speaker of English. Strange, eh?

    1. I don't know what you mean by "lady fingers". Sponge finger are Biscuit à la Cuiller.
      Anyway, thank you very much for your own point of view, regarding language. As you're a french speaker living in a Canada, I wanted to have your opinion on this subject, too.
      For Alzheimer, my aunt's uncle (80 years old) lived in USA for almost all his life (60 years). Now he's suffering from Alzheimer, so she took him back to France. Now he speaks french and english to the french nurses !! :D He's mixing the 2 languages.

  3. Oh Axelle, I have such sweet memories like you of my grandmother. I did not know my great grandmother. Thank you for sharing your memories. I am an armchair traveler and so I have read many books about people going to another country to live and how they began to adopt the language in their new location and not speak their own (normally English) language. When I was in high school taking French, I began to dream in French which I thought was interesting. You have a beautiful language. I only wish I had kept up my lessons, so I could still dream in French. ;-)
    love and prayers, jep

    1. Dear Jep, tu peux également écrire en Français, si tu le souhaites, cela me fait plaisir. Et cela peut te servir d'entrainement ! :)
      You say you're an armchair traveler, I like this expression ! When I was at College, we had a Russian teacher. He told us his grandmother never went to Paris, but she loved this city so much that she read a thousand books about it. So, she was able to guide you in the town, without ever being there ! :D

  4. Hi Axelle, You have such good memories with your grandmother. Your childhood times with her sounds very charming and happy. I do not have such memories, both my grandmothers passed away when I was a toddler.
    I am very bad when it comes to languages, it does not come easy to me! I'm not one of those gifted when it comes to languages! :)
    Hope you have a great weekend!

    1. I know I'm lucky, because I met my great grandmother and kept for years (until my 37 years old) my 4 grand parents alive.
      What you say is a question for me : finally, are we really equal with languages ? If I think about my childhood and this experience, I would answer : we are all able to talk a foreign language. Even you, Joyce, I'm sure :D

  5. It is my dream to go to Italy. I am (very slowly) trying to learn to speak Italian. From my work as a musician, I know many terms and have good pronunciation, but getting my brain to learn the parts of speech in Italian has been a struggle.

    1. You're a musician ?? What instrument do you play ?? In which kind of job do you work as a musician ?
      Italian is easy enough to learn, for frenchmen, because it's very similar. But I understand that for anglo saxons people, it can be harder. But keep on trying, it's worthy ! :)