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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News

 

Parlez-vous francais?

Posted 5/27/14 (Tue)

These new Smart Phones are pretty slick, I have to admit. They can do just about anything except combine grain.

That includes learning a second language. Yes, you too can learn Swahili, German, Norwegian, Spanish or in my case, French.

I took French in college and always thought that living this close to the border, it would be a good idea to learn French. I’ve known of the French culture in Winnipeg since I was a kid and that it has rubbed off on some North Dakota communities such as Pembina, Neche and Wallhalla.

So, I began to listen to the French version of CBC radio, took French when I got to UND and sought out books and newspapers written in French.

I’ve always had a hard time picking up much of what is aired on the CBC radio news in French. They speak too fast and it appears to have plenty of slang.

French French is easier. It’s more eloquent. Words are pronounced more thoroughly, thus it’s easier to understand.

Reading French is much easier and that is where the iPhone comes in.

The CBC French app is on my phone for TV and radio and one thing I recently found out is that CBC English TV doesn’t allow Internet streaming outside of Canada. But with CBC French TV, it’s all there, news every day, drama, politics, sports and even cartoons.... If you can understand it.

I’ve also put the Le Monde newspaper app on my phone. Not that I’m real interested in what’s going on in France, but Le Monde is a very educational newspaper.

There’s also an app I found that I think is real interesting. It’s a book, with comic book graphics, but textbook educational value. It’s about the War of 1812 and it’s written in French. I’ve been learning about a war that was never taught in my high school history classes.

Finally, I have an app that is a basic French learning tool. It starts out with you having to recognize the French equivalent of English words, then phrases, then sentences and finally conversations. It’s really quite a marvel.

I haven’t advanced enough yet to have to go to intermediate or expert levels. But I’ll get there.

A lot of people take up Spanish and that’s great too. I never had the opportunity, even though I wanted it, to take a second language in high school. And, although my progress has been really slow since then because of family, job, military, I’m still learning it.  I’ve told my wife and some of my friends that I intend to become fluent in French and lo and behold, it’s a cellular telephone that is finally allowing it to happen.

In the four years I lived in Langdon, I would often watch French TV on CBWFT, channel 13 in Winnipeg. Now, I can watch it on the beach in Florida if I want through cell phone technology. It’s pretty slick. When you have a visual in front of you. it’s just easier to understand.

Since the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, D.C., and became the Nationals, the CBC French service has picked up the Toronto Blue Jays. Watch a baseball game sometime in French and it won’t take long to start picking up words and remembering them.

I have yet to watch a Canadian Football League game in French but have listened to several and was able to keep track of what was going on.

You just never know when this stuff is going to come in handy.

Back in high school, even though I hadn’t learned French yet, I certainly had the desire. I got into trouble in English class and was required to write a 5,000-word report on the French Revolution.

Oh! I wrote it alright. I enlisted a group of friends, we translated words and I wrote the report, all 5,000 words of it, entirely in French. The teacher was dumbfounded but had no choice but to accept it since it contained the 5,000 words his punishment required.

In 1999,  while in Germany on a military mission, we had a day off and went into Munich for sightseeing and shopping.

Since chocolate is one of the four basic food groups of a journalist, I dropped into a candy store for some German chocolate. None of the workers spoke English, but they spoke and understood French so I was able to communicate with them and purchase my chocolate.

In recent months I’ve had numerous conversations and emails from people in Quebec regarding the oil train explosion in Lac-Megantic. Knowing some French has really helped me reach the right people in Quebec to bring our readers this disaster since it is acutely connected to North Dakota.

You just never know when a second language will come in handy.