February 1, 2018 Northampton, MA, USA

Hotel Northampton: Blanket Scarf + Shiny Rainboots

hotel northampton
hotel northampton
Scarf, H&M France | Turtleneck, thrifted L.L. Bean | Skirt, F21 | Boots, Amazon
Photos of me by Alura

I've been writing so much for my French thesis that I no longer feel the same tug to wrestle with my thoughts here. Much has happened, much worth pondering, but I find myself verbalizing these moments and ideas with those I love, rather than weaving them into prose. I find myself sharing these poignant or quirky experiences on my instagram, rather than documenting them on my blog. 

After major life events--thesis! graduation! postgrad plans!---perhaps this space will become as active as it once was. But in the meantime, here are some more language and identity musings from my thesis. My latest chapter is about love for a language being like a romantic love. I even get to talk about an embarrassing crush I had on my Bordeaux math tutor, a PhD student--my love for the language and infatuation for him really fed and motivated each other. When I left France for England, I used to imagine conversations with him out loud, and I would justify these conversations as "French practice."

The excerpt I'm featuring here is much less juicy, but much more meaningful to me (the crush section is still in-progress). It's about the idea of French being a "language of love," but not as in a romantic love. 


Language of love?

Since Bordeaux, I’ve kept a vocab journal. My notes are completely haphazard, following no specific format. Most times, I write an English expression and its French equivalent. But if I first learned the expression in French, I begin with the French term and write its English equivalent. The journal isn’t organized alphabetically, nor by parts of speech. It’s only vaguely chronological, from earliest to most recent, with no dates.

My brother asked why I don’t digitize my list to facilitate referencing. Half of it is laziness. But my other reasons are sentimental—the words in my vocab journal remind me of the people who taught them to me and the memories we shared. The vague chronological order helps me situate my experiences in a way that alphabetizing wouldn’t.

I learned the word la biche (doe) from a literature classmate. It was Christmas Eve, and I had joined her and her sisters on a walk to Lac Biscarosse. We had stopped at a lonely dock overlooking the calm blue waters. Playing tour guide, my friend explained that you could often find deer footprints in the mud. Sometimes, you’d even be able to catch a glimpse of them retreating into the woods.

I was taught the word le nœud-papillon when I complimented my orchestra friend on her bow-adorned leather gloves. When she visited me at Oxford, I learned le combishort after she found a colorful vintage romper for only £1 at the street market. And as we strolled along a daffodil-lined path in a college park, I became acquainted with the word les jonquilles.

They say French is the language of love. I agree; not because I associate French with romance, but because I associate the very foundation of the language—my vocabulary—with moments of moments of patience and love. Interacting with a foreign speaker can be exhausting—this I know after reciprocating the careful guidance I received from my French friends. Speakers sometimes strain to elucidate their thoughts, while the listeners sometimes strain to comprehend as the speakers fish for words. Creating a meaningful connection despite such an obstacle relies on patience and perseverance—two major love languages.

Until next time,

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