Independent Writing from an Independent Mind

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Tag Archives: French

Re-reading: A lesson I learned from French

A few years ago I flew from Bangkok to Dakar, Sénégal, via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This was pretty much in the day that you couldn’t bring an iPad along to read (they didn’t exist – remember those days?) so we were down to books, newspapers and magazines. Normally in lengthy international flights I bring a minimum of two books but this time I mistakenly packed one in my luggage. It did me no good in the belly of the plane when I finished reading the first book in the business class lounge in Addis. When we’d boarded the leg of the flight that was to stop in Bamako, Mali, prior to continuing on to Dakar I was getting pretty damned bored. The movies didn’t catch me and I was out of reading material. One of the stewardesses offered me the one remaining magazine that wasn’t passed around to the other passengers: Paris Match!

I have studied French as an autodidact off and on for years. But let me stress that this has been truly “off and on”. For the time actually put in maybe I have had a decent return on investment but in no way do I set the house in fire en français. But I liked the challenge. I occupied my mind with French for the next two hours or so then stuffed the magazine away in my bag. I do recall at being very disappointed in the amount that I did not understand. I felt like an infant.

During the week I was busy at work and so I was out of my hotel room pretty much night and day. But on the last day prior to my departure I was informed that I was bumped from my flight. I wouldn’t be leaving the next morning as planned. I didn’t feel like going out anymore so I stayed in. But instead of pulling out my second book that I brought along (people who know me know I’m not a television person) I yanked out that French magazine and tried to make another go of it. This time I felt better re-reading the magazine. Each article I read now had a context. When I put the magazine down before shutting off the light I felt better about my abilities in French.

When I finally did get back in the air, and after spending a short while in Mali and a few days in Ethiopia, I grabbed the magazine again. I thought I would use it to burn up the hours between Addis Ababa and Thailand. But a funny thing happened… I breezed through the magazine as if it were written in English! I had comprehended the longer articles with little trouble at all, and sans dictionaire, as I didn’t have one on the trip.

Language educator Stephen Krashen would have called my perusal of this French magazine as “comprehensive input” and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree on a language acquisition level. But I think that is not all that was going on either. I think the brain somehow passes over that which it already knows in order to take in something new. It is why doing something again and again is the key to mastery and expertise. But at the same time doing something again and again, if done with purpose, can actually be a shortcut. The initial struggle is part of the process so if you accept this at the outset your mind’s eye will catch the things you missed before and turn that into skill, into knowledge, and if we are lucky, eventually into wisdom.

Practically, it also means to me that I’m better off to re-read several times and re-write much less. And also that I can learn some French by myself from Paris Match!

Not all my Readers are Crazies!

thou-shalt-not-bear-false-witness1I was pleased today to see a well thought out reader’s review on my book Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness. Up until this point I get lots of e-mails about my book but have had not so many reviews. That isn’t so curious for me due to the fact that it is easier for someone to go to the Gary Dale Cearley website and send me a message through the contact form than it is to put your thoughts on the book at one of the book sites like Amazon, Shelfari, GoodReads or AuthorsDen.

Anyway, I quite often get “hate mail” from “Christians” who support Jack Chick, Alberto Rivera and their Vatican Islam conspiracy. This amazes me to be quite honest…

I would never have suspected that people who are presented with the truth about a subject would shunt the truth rather than reading it for themselves and trying to understand where it is coming from. Take for instance this guy Thomas Richards, the one who branded me a “Jesuit coadjutor” and a “Vatican shill”. Now for his own part, Mr. Richards is apparently a follower of that nut job Tony Alamo. This Richards guy keeps trying to pretend that he has read the book but at the same time he knows nothing of it at all, other than I had an interview with a professor at the University of Bethlehem, a man who is a Muslim but works at a Catholic University.

Nonetheless, I hear from these guys every now and then who are telling me that I am going to Hell and that my soul cannot be saved at this point. Oddly enough they are coming from everywhere. I have had folks write in from the United States (several regions), the United Kingdom, India, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Belgium, Germany, etc., none of who seemed to have even cracked the book’s cover.

Many of my friends told me that I would have all this ire from the Islamic community but I sensed early on this would not be the case. Muslims would have no problem with what I wrote in the book. It is aimed like a dagger at Jack Chick’s sadistic world of hateful biblical tracts.

I have news for all of my hate mailers…

The controversy isn’t inside the covers of my book. The true controversy is what my book refutes. If you’d read it you would know that.

Now I have a request for them…

Don’t send me an e-mail or contact me in any other way to tell me that God is displeased with me and that I am going to Hell until AFTER you have read Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness! You only make yourself look a fool, like Richard Thomas did.