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How hobbies help language

Can you share a hobby without sharing a language?

In last week's newsletter we asked readers for their experiences making French friends through joining a club and sharing a hobby, whatever their level of French.

Here are some of your responses:

MY WIFE and I came to France ten years ago. We had no French between us, but our previous careers involved an ability to communicate

Our plan was to be a part of the community and to do this we joined several local groups. Kate joined a local quilting group and I joined a wood turning group. We then both joined a folk dancing group in nearby Laval. We also found EuroMayenne, a local association that is designed to share the cultures of people moving into the Mayenne.

The activity group had less conversation, but all instructions were in French. We quickly noticed that we seemed to pick up the leaders instructions quicker than most as we had to concentrate so hard and used the visual as well as the verbal.

We continued in this group for over four years and have one or two French friends from it. One Christmas there was a fete and we took two French friends to it. One of the dance group, meeting our friends for the first time, complemented them on their French - they hadn't expected us to have French friends!

I would urge others to join groups that support an interest as one learns a language. There is the common bond of the activity as the limited language is tackled. Once more confident we then all have a way to give back. Help them with English. The longer we are here the more English we speak and the better our French becomes.
Gordon Cooke

OF COURSE you can make French friends sharing the same interests without having to speak perfect advanced french.

I have lived in the Pays Basque for six years and get by with the French I've picked up. I did join a group to learn to speak French for the first couple of years but found there was so much grammar to learn, I lost interest very quickly. I belong to a patchwork group and we meet for three hours every Wednesday afternoon. There are about 12 regular French women who have turned out to be best friends. In the last couple of years, two other Anglaise have joined the group and we all help each other out. In fact the French people are interested to learn English from us. We have a lot of laughs and as our class is held in the Hotel de Ville, the mayor calls on us regularly to see how we are getting on. I feel very happy to be in their environment and look forward to seeing them all. I was recently in a clinic for several weeks and several of the French friends called to see me - I was very touched.
Lyn Jelf

WE ARE Dutch, but living in France and joined a club, a week after we had arrived, six years ago.

We used to do line-dancing in Holland before we emigrated. My husband was in his free time Country line-dance. The guy who taught the sessions, had no idea what he was doing. He did not count down before starting and all the steps where wrong, so my husband started counting and everybody started at the same moment which is important to avoid "accidents"!
The "teacher" asked my husband to come outside and, I though he wanted to pick a fight but, no, he asked my husband to become teacher of this group

My husband agreed to give it a try, but had no idea of the French names for the steps. In the beginning it was hard because of the language, but now we both speak French rather well. Thanks to all our French friends and their patience with us.

You can see us on the website of our group: and Anneke Roodbol

I AM a retired teacher (American) and have been living in Provence since 2002. My language skills are sufficient to communicate and read at about collège level 6ème. I have learned to teach music in French, specifically recorder (flûte à bec), and have taught English to adolescents and adults. I don't speak "good" French (my vocabulary is pretty basic and my grammar and pronunciation often evokes giggles and/or confused looks), but I can hold a conversation. I've managed to integrate well in my village and have made many friends locally, largely through music.

I CAN absolutely recommend joining a local (preferably village) choir. We have made friends and learnt to communicate in French in a wonderfully friendly and fun atmosphere, singing in French, English and even other languages. Choirs seem popular in this area (perhaps the music influence of Jazz in Marciac?) and we actually have two choirs to choose from in this area.

It also means we get to hear of the concerts performed by other choirs in the area. Yes, music is a great leveller.
Rita Smith

HERE in the Lot our neighbours are mainly farmers and they have been very helpful and understanding when we have struggled to talk to them. Here the accent is extremely strong. 45 years ago I learnt 'northern French' at school which was not a lot of good here. We are at the top end of the 'Oc' area and even though we are three hours or so from the Spanish border our neighbours strongly believe their roots are Catalan.

In the UK I had a share in a full size private aeroplane and have always had an interest in fall things that fly. I had to accept that I could not afford to continue flying when we moved to France as we have to live solely on my pension.

Just over a year ago and in order to deal with my need to 'fly' (it is an addiction), I joined a local radio control model aircraft club. I had to learn how to fly with my feet on the floor looking up at the aircraft.

So once a week I get at least a whole afternoon talking to true Lotois people. I don't claim to be able to talk in the Lot patois but at least my ear has become tuned to it. I can talk confidently with them. I have, since the AGM, been a Trustee of the club.

Both my partner and I were also ambushed by the local village association of culture and loisirs to become committee members. I think I understand about 60-75 per cent of what goes on, but you need to attend a French committee meeting to understand how chaotic they are compared to that normally experienced in the UK. Somehow or other the business seems to get done by osmosis rather than a formal structure.

Word has also got round that I play the Highland Bagpipes and last year we co-hosted a full Burns supper for our French neighbours. Social occasions are just the right atmosphere for increasing your confidence to talk in French.

There is no doubt that, if you are not in a working environment, becoming active in the community greatly increases you ability to understand and communicate confidently within your community.
Terry Walters

We retired to Ambazac (87) France in 2002 and I was looking for something to exercise my brain at the same time as being fun. I found my daughters clarinet among the things we brought with us. I tried it and liked the sound so enrolled at the local music school. After a fair bit of effort and a very patient teacher I was invited to join an orchestra three years ago and as a result we've had a whole new aspect of French life opened to us. Despite being the worst musician by a long way the welcome both I and my wife have had has been marvellous. I've been part of the orchestra when it played on Limousin Bleu radio and we've made a CD that's used as background music for a local miniature circus.
The one down side...I play much less golf now!
Alan Kerr

My husband belongs to a local gun club, he enjoyed shooting pistol when we lived in England but guns were banned after Dunblane so he was happy to keep up his hobby in France. He was welcomed with open arms and I have attended many times and also been made very welcome. My husband's French is good and mine is improving. We know a French couple there who speak English which is a help with learning how to apply for licences etc, and they also like to keep up with their English. Everyone else just speaks French.

We are also on the committee, with other people from our local village, involved in a jumelage (twinning) with a village in Brittany. We have visited that village where the majority of people only speak French but again we have been made very welcome.
Marilyn Markham

Lisa F. Young -

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