It struck me, as I stumbled over pronunciation and searched for every third word, that there's actually a lot in common between being thrown back into using your second language and picking up rollerblading after a couple years off skates. How, you ask? I believe it comes down to muscle memory.
A few weeks back I took my daughter and her friends to the roller skating rink. In my twenties, I lived on the coast in Los Angeles (Hermosa Beach) and clocked more time on my rollerblades than I did in tennis shoes. However, tying a pair of skates on after all these years proved deceptively challenging. I could keep up with the girls, propel myself forward, glide, and come to a reasonably quick stop, but all my movements were jerky and barely in control.
After a few dozen laps, I felt the muscles in my shins relax. My inner thighs remembered to do most of the work. As I sat back more on softer knees, I noticed my weight transfer from over my toes to over my heels. I got my glide on. It was as if the clock had turned back a decade and the fluid, slolam sashay returned to my movements. With little effort, I sped down the straightaways and crossed my outside skate over the inside one on the curves. It was awesome, like flying.
This kind of muscle memory also comes into play when picking back up a second language. English speakers keep their tongues more or less in the center of their mouths when they speak. When speaking in French though, your tongue must perform crazy acrobatics in order to push the correct sounds out. Also, English is spoken from the front of the mouth, where French is throatier and more nasal. It took several days for my throat to relax and my lips to adopt the proper pouty purse. It wasn't something I could force, because the more I concentrated on how French I sounded, the more I lost track of the words I was trying to say. Either way, I stumbled. It was frustrating, but sure enough after a little time, my fluency came back.
Of course, as soon as that happened, it was time for our friends to leave. (*sigh*) Oh well, at least I won't have as much trouble getting back into the swing of French this summer when we spend three weeks at my husband's family's home...I hope :)
How was your weekend? Did you do something you haven't done in a long time, or did you try anything new?