Neal Durando, in An Abécédaire Fugitif, begins “My grammar has crossed the Atlantic four times since I began giving English lessons in western France three years ago,” and goes on to list French words with associations they call up for him, often how he learned them:

FOIS /fwa/
“Cómo se dice ‘vez’
?” I asked my Spanish friend Oscár as we crossed the tramway tracks to eat lunch at café Les Facultés in between classes at the University of Nantes. There were no English speakers within earshot, so Spanish was how I learned about French. We were anxious about crossing the tracks as the tramway announces itself with only a slight sighing sound. “Fois” he answered without looking at me, as he had an eye out for the tram that could have put an end to us. Vez, fois, once upon a time pedestrians had to watch for streetcars everywhere in the United States, even in Chicago, the city where I was to shortly find myself.

An enjoyable collection of motments. (Via wood s lot.)


  1. Shoot, Spanish was how I learned French. With a degree in Spanish and a need to acquire French, I mapped French words on a Spanish syntax and it worked. Yeah, it wasn’t a perfect method but the gap was smaller between Spanish and French than my native English and French.

  2. J’ai oublie tout mon Francais (or something like that — I forget). Oddly, learning a second language (French) at an early age, while arguably helping me with Spanish — far more necessary in the Greater Lawrence (MA) area — has cause a weird phenomenon I call “Ingles Perdido.” I first noticed it while trying to talk to a travel agent in Vladivostok several years ago.
    From my diary jotted down later that night: “A curious mental deterioration gripped me. When failing to communicate in Russian, the ladies brought in a man who spoke German, which I don’t speak. I started to wonder what the odds were that anybody spoke French here when suddenly I could only think of words in Spanish. Try as I might no other words would come to me. I sat there knowing no one would understand a word of it yet unable to think in any other language including English. With the language center of the brain switched to Spanish I sat and listened to Marge trying her German on the German-speaker who was about as uncomprehending as the ladies. Words floated around me making no sense at all. What was I doing here? Why did my brain think I could speak Spanish anyway?”

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