12 July 2011

a love/hate thing

In French, my nuances are taken from me. I'm forced, by the limits of vocabulary, to make very categorical statements.

I love coffee. I have it every day.

I like to read. I prefer the classics.

I love running. I try to do it 5 days a week in the mornings.

I prefer the mornings. I like getting up very early.

Those are all very true statements, but there are shades I could fill in in English that I struggle to fill in en francais. It's a black and white world for me in French, and everyone listening to me must think I'm very sure of myself.

I hate this. I love that. Done and done.

What I mean to say is:
I love coffee, the ritual of it. I don't think I'm addicted to the caffeine as much as to the experience. Grinding the coffee, the smell of it brewing, waiting to take that first sip.

I love how sometimes I want an espresso and sometimes I want black coffee and sometimes I want lots of cream.

I love the almost always fulfilled expectation of weak coffee at a diner—but I order it anyway, just to drink it out of one of those thick-handled mugs.

I love that coffee makes me want to write, and I love that, bizarrely, coffee doesn't keep me awake.

In French, though—at least the frozen French that tumbles out as my brain thaws when I first come back to France—what I can get out is: I love coffee. A lot.

For someone so sure of herself in English—of my command of the English language—this is very unnerving.

And yet—it's exciting. It's exciting to try to think fast enough in a foreign language.

And yet—it's challenging. It's challenging to try to get out complicated thoughts in a language where your vocabulary is very uncomplicated.

And yet—it's humbling. It's humbling to realize you're going to make mistakes and you're going to have to laugh at yourself.

And so I can categorically say: I love French. A lot.

Even in French I can say that: J'aime le francais. Beaucoup.

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