I can speak Kazakh!
If someone ever asks me for advice on learning a new language I will tell them this: take some lessons on how to speak the language.
It is rather simple advice, yet I managed to overlook it for the first six months that I lived here. Now a week after finishing my three week course I am still reaping the benefits – more direction in my study, improved conversation skills, but by far and away the most important thing – I have friends who are learning French too. This last weekend I have been socialising to the point of excess with my new friends picnicing, salsa dancing and playing soccer and table tennis. It is quite exhausting actually, but very good for the French. The interesting thing about my new friends is that they come from all over the world, places that don’t have traditional links with Australia, like Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Brazil and Namibia. Everyone can speak English, but we all stick to the French lingua franca and it works a treat because if we spoke English not only would it not help the French learning, but Dave (a Canadian) and I would be able to speak it far better than everyone else who speaks it as a second language. In French everyone is on a similar level. It is hard sometimes to understand the Chinese pronunciation of French words, but truth be told my Australian word mangling probably doesn’t make things that easy either. It feels good because we speak equally, just like I speak equally with my mates in Australia. I can speak on the same level with people from many many countries with only having to learn one other language – that’s surely worth the few euros it cost me for the course.