Several times you’ve probably read here about our English friends Gaynor and Pete whom we met by chance (I call that “meeting by Bill”—the man who knows no strangers) when we still lived in Atlanta. They are quite an active couple both outdoors whether cycling, kayaking,or hiking and even indoors with the foxtrot, cha cha, and tango for example, or a helium balloon.
Pete was telling us about some of the advice that the instructor had given them to help improve their dancing. Apparently if you envision a helium balloon tethered to your chest it helps to ensure that you will stand up straight. Some other words of wisdom were that once they learned the basic steps of a dance they should then concentrate on the movement of the upper body leaving their feet to follow along. That’s how I think about learning a language.
One of the blogs that we follow (there’s a link to Oui in France over there on the right column) recently had an article about why it’s important to concentrate on comprehension when learning a language. Once you have a basic understanding of the grammar, just start listening and talking without worrying about getting the pronunciation exactly right or wondering about the past perfect or the present subjunctive tenses. In the real world no one cares if you say “Yesterday I go to the museum” vs. “I went”. In speaking with our neighbors here I’m just so happy to be engaged in a conversation and I can forget about making every word or sentence perfect. Communication takes precedence over correctness.
As when dancing in a contest with a judge, if we’re being tested for our knowledge of the language (as is required to become a French citizen) then naturally we’ll want to be correct as possible. If, however as in the photo of our friends enjoying the beautiful setting, we’re out to have fun with the language, then we’re just going to let our feet follow along.