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  • Writer's pictureCoco

Can't They Speak English In This Restaurant?

Updated: May 24, 2018

Learning a foreign language can be intimidating, sometimes discouraging. You start from nothing and you build up, one word after the other, very much like a rock wall … one rock at a time.

Picture the words as the rocks and the grammar as the cement. They are two separate things, but they are interconnected. The rocks need the cement, and the cement is there to hold the rocks.

In the same way, you can learn as many words as possible, but without any grammar, you will never be able to link the words together to make a cohesive sentence. The grammar is there to hold the words together.

When you learn a foreign language, you do not always intend to speak it fluently. You can learn a foreign language only with the purpose of understanding your own mother tongue better. How so?

Let me explain. When you learn Latin, it is not to speak it; rather, it is to better understand many English words that are Latin-based words. Well, when you learn French, or Spanish, or Italian, or any language heavily based on Latin, it may be just to satisfy your curiosity or shed some light on some words that you use every day without truly knowing the fascinating story that can hide behind them.

You have all heard of “PLAT DU JOUR” or “SOUP DU JOUR” – When I had my restaurant, I did have a “SOUP DU JOUR”, and I would hear the interrogative remark from some guests, “Can’t they speak English in this restaurant?!!”

Have you ever thought of what this “DU JOUR” could mean?

“JOUR”, in French, is a day. However, you do not have to know that to understand the phrase. Always try to think of a similar word that you know… Oh, here is one: “Journal” – What is a journal? It is a diary that you keep on a daily basis. Now we get the idea! “DU JOUR” must have something to do with “day”, or “daily”…

“PLAT” almost looks like “plate”, doesn’t it? Correct! That’s what it is.

As a result, “PLAT DU JOUR”, as you see it in a lot of restaurants, is “the plate of the day”, in other words, today’s special. It is as simple as that.

Once you start scratching the surface of many words, you open the door to a captivating world, the world of words.

I used to teach French at all levels to all ages, and I would never miss the opportunity to connect words together, compare languages, explain the etymology and how a word got to be this particular word, and my students would always leave the class with a better knowledge and a better understanding of their own language, English. Not surprisingly, my high school students scored very well in the language part of the SAT. There is so much to learn about words.

There is so much to learn also about grammar, and grammar too can be intimidating, but grammar makes sense as well, just like words.

As one of my adult students said years ago, “I have been speaking English for more than seven decades, and I am just starting to see that it all makes sense… It really all makes sense!”

If you are more curious, I invite you to watch my introductory video to my language course. The first one is free, so go right ahead, and click HERE.

Keep using and playing with words, and keep your mind inquisitive!

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