Something weird happened when I got sick last week.
I started reading Buzzfeed articles in French.
First it started with an English article about Marie Teller's search for the best chocolate croissant in New York, using the choclatines of her youth in southwestern France as a standard of comparison.
It was a pleasant, easy read, not too obnoxious in the way Buzzfeed articles usually are, so I clicked on Teller's name to see what else she'd written.
Apparently, quite a lot, and most of it in French, as far as I could tell, which makes sense she's the senior editor for Buzzfeed International.
I used to be pretty serious about French in school. I don't know why, I just really enjoyed it. Despite my past ten-plus year foray into science, I would say my brain is actually hardwired for language (hence, the writing, the editing business, etc.). My school offered French at a very, very basic level starting in Pre-K, and each year it ramped up a bit, until we were learning how to conjugate verbs in the 5th grade. I took French for all four years in high school, and was one of the few people in my senior year AP class, which was kind of awesome, because we just sat around a table and did our best to chat in French and read very simple novels, like Bonjour Tristesse, Suivez-La Piste, Le Petit Prince, Le Petit Nicolas et Les Copains, etc.
I even took conversational French and advanced grammar in my freshman year of college, but after that, it was clear that if I wanted to continue studying French, I'd pretty much have to major or minor in it, and I wasn't interested. So that was it for French, and I haven't really used it much except for the odd European trip here and there.
Isn't it funny how that works? You spend a huge chunk of your youth studying something, getting decent at it (comparatively speaking, I was never, ever close to fluent), and then one day the classes just stop.
That's how it was for me with piano too. I'd played since I was five years old, and I played all the way through college, studying pretty intense classical piano with this lady. But once college ended, I didn't have time to keep taking lessons, so I just stopped. Every now and then, I try to sit back down at the piano, and I can still play, but I'm not nearly as good as I used to be. It's kind of sad.
So French was like that. I used to be pretty good, but it's use it or loose it. Or so I thought.
The funny thing is, this stuff comes back if you try it again. I don't know why reading French Buzzfeed articles felt so good while I was sick and struggling to get through my editing jobs, but I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that it allowed me to give the English side of my brain (obviously, the vast majority of it) a rest.
I love to read, but now that I'm doing it professionally (and doing it last week under physical duress), I honestly haven't been enjoying it as much for fun lately. It's like, I read all day long, and at the end of the day, I just want a break. But I still want to hear a good story - I'm just too tired to read one. The struggle is real. (And books are pretty much my only option here, since we don't have cable internet.)
Or, so I thought. Turns out, I'm just too tired to read more English. So I started reading some of Teller's Buzzfeed articles in French, and they're so simple, that even someone as out of practice as I am can follow along. When I don't know a word, which is often, I just google translate it (but not the whole sentence, that defeats the point). Also, I really like the French comments, which are also fairly easy to read.
Anyway, I just thought that was interesting. The brain - what a mystery. It's like when my grandmother had Alzheimer's. She couldn't remember the name for a coffee mug, but she could still play beautiful improvisational piano. For whatever reason, that part of her brain continued to work. And right now, as I'm coming out of this cold and still busily editing every day, it turns out my French (reading comprehension anyway), still kind of works, and I still enjoy it.
French Reading Level - Buzzfeed
Writing Streak: 0 days
My Books on Amazon:
Waking Lions by Avelet Gundar-Goshen
Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro