With each passing day I get closer to travelling to Papua New Guinea to climb the Carstensz Pyramid, a twenty plus day journey to its peak, I am filled with excitement – of both kinds! Included with all the fun and anticipation I am experiencing as I prepare for this climb, I have some French language anxiety as the date approaches!
The group of fellow mountaineers whom I am climbing with are all Francophones. They also speak English, including a couple of our guides.
Our lead guide hired for our group is from Switzerland, where the official languages spoken are German, French, Romansh and Italian. My first language is Portuguese and my other native language is English.
This past weekend (September 1-3, 2017), I spent two full days in Mont-Tremblant, Québec, learning rock climbing skills, along with team building exercises with my follow mountaineers. I could feel my French anxiety building during these exercises.
Even though everyone can understand and speak English, their language of preference was French for instruction because it’s their default first language. When the English translation of the instruction was provided, it was a ‘summarized’ version of the communication that had transpired. I can’t blame them, since only trained interpreters (verbal translators) know that summarization is not very effective for important situations. Proper language interpretation only occurs when word for word is translated, using the same tone of voice, nuances and intent of the original speaker. Come on guys – after all, I do run a translation company!
As I sit at my desk every day at Language Marketplace, I have the comfort of being able to take my time to read emails when they are sent to me in French, and if I have any comprehension difficulties I simply forward the material to one of our French translators, who quickly provides me with a perfect French translation.
However, when communication is verbal and instructions are being given, discussions are occurring all in French – the luxury of time is not possible. I think one of two things would really help; an interpreter or an improvement in my French comprehension skills!
To climb the Carstensz Pyramid, which stands at 4,884 metres (16,024 ft.) above sea level, is an epic challenge in itself. It is considered to be one of the most technical of the 7 Summits –even more technical than Mount Everest. In addition to ensuring that I’m physically ready, the mental aspect of long days of trekking through the jungle and tropical rain forests just to reach the mountain, will also take its toll mentally.
I have decided to turn this “French anxiety” I’m having into a constructive learning experience. I have always loved French and have taken several French language courses over the years. With this limited French language training, I have decided to change my fear into something positive –increase my French comprehension and help my fellow mountaineers improve their English! We’ll all be spending long hours together and what better thing to do than all of us improve our language comprehension abilities! As I finish writing this I can’t help but be grateful that at this juncture, THIS is what is taking up my thinking time. “I am blessed!” ‘’J’ai beaucoup de chance!”