I firmly believe that if we are going to move to another country and embrace their culture, we need to learn their language. Its only right
I remember the day so clearly its as if it were yesterday: the day my GCSE results came through the post. I got mainly Bs and Cs, which was what I expected, but right there at the bottom was a big fat E.
For what? I hear you ask.
French. Mon dieu! Unfortunately, languages have never been my speciality. When I first started filming A Place in the Sun I remember thinking it would be a great chance to improve my French so I tried to practise as much as I could.
A French agent once asked me out for a drink after filming, and I wasnt too keen, if the truth be told, as I dont think he wanted to talk about the housing market, I think he was thinking amorous thoughts, so I tried politely to tell him I couldnt as I needed to go to the hotel and wash my hair. He looked most perturbed until I realised that hair and horse sound very similar in French (cheveux and cheval) I think he had visions of a small Shetland pony in my shower!
My point, however, is that I gave it a go and thats the most important thing. Its amazing how by surrounding yourself with people who speak a different language you can start to pick it up. I couldnt speak a word of Spanish when I started filming in Spain. I used to rely on our sound man and director to order things for me. Then one day I heard myself asking in Spanish for another glass for sharing a drink without even realising Id done it. It was a miracle I was practically fluent!
If you are thinking of buying a house abroad to move to full-time or even just to spend your holidays and weekends in, its vital that you start to learn the language if English isnt the native language of the country youve chosen. I think that as a nation we are pretty terrified of embarrassing ourselves so we tend to not even try. But, in my opinion, most people appreciate it if you forget your nerves and give it a go.
When my mother moved to France she threw herself into learning French with gusto. She and her partner David went to weekly French lessons and asked their neighbour Jacques to speak to them only in French. Everyday household objects had Post-it notes stuck to them announcing their names in French to help them.
I firmly believe that if we are going to move to another country and embrace their culture we need to learn their language; its only right.
My apartment in Italy is about to be finished, and I havent even started thinking about how Im going to make myself understood. Im going to buy my new little daughter some learn Italian tapes and books and Ill learn it with her. Im also going to start watching all those wonderful Italian films like Cinema Paradiso and Il Postino (which means postman see, Ive learnt something already).
Sometimes the only way to do it is to throw yourself into the spirit of things and go for it. I plan to become very Italian and use lots of gestures and arm movements. Its all part of the experience, isnt it? Everyone has a different way of learning and some find it easier than others.
Whichever way you decide to do it, I urge you to give it a go. Youve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Bonne chance and au revoir for now!