Rule Fatigue

One of the things about studying another language is that it makes you appreciate your mother tongue more! I have come to appreciate the flexibility and richness of English: there are so many building blocks which can be put together in so many different ways, with an amazing degree of flexibility.

French is rather more like a jigsaw puzzle. There are lots of pieces, but they are mostly (it seems to me) of irregular shape. To fit the pieces together, you need to know the rules. Oh boy, French is most certainly a language of rules! Even what seems to be a really simple area of the French language has its set of rules, which often seem to be short of logic, or even completely illogical (to an Englishman…).

This does not bother native French speakers at all. Many probably could not tell you the rules, but they are embedded in their subconscious nevertheless. “The subjonctif?” one may say, “No, I never use it!” Three sentences later, there it is, the subjonctif!

Others, like our teachers, know the rules and have no problem with them: “There are rules, lots of them, sometimes illogical, that’s the way it is, get used to it!” Over the last few months or so of delving into all sorts of linguistic nooks and crannies I have never once known our teacher say “Hmmm, I’m not sure, I’ll have to look that up to check.” Nope, she just knows, it’s all at her fingertips. I’m amazed.

Back to the title of the post. This week I think I reached the point of Rule Fatigue: I wanted to yell out in class “Give me a break, there must be something with some good old English-style flexibility!” Our class finished our studies on Thursday morning; I was clock-watching the whole time, desperate to get to the end, as our teacher raced through the material she wanted to cover… She made it, I made it (without yelling any protests!).

Time to relaaaaaaaax…

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