#13: Blablabla

When we use “blah blah blah” in English, it tends to deride someone who seems to drone on and always seems to come with a particular cadence and intonation.

But it seems to be much more common in French. The most popular ride-sharing app in France is called BlaBlaCar and French Blabla is a podcast that I listened to for language learning, as just two examples. Many of my colleagues use it a lot, but it is said in rapid succession with a translation probably closer to etcetera (which is also used in French.) So think less:

and more:

However apparently Gwenn’s mom remarked that she has used it more recently, and Gwenn suspected it might be because of me. So in an exercise that is equal parts frustrating and enlightening, she has started counting each time I say ‘blablabla’ throughout the day. So far I’m averaging around 15, even after I’m aware that she is counting and trying to stop myself.

I think that I developed the habit for two reasons: 1) since many of my native French speaking colleagues use it often, it can, in moderation, make my speech seem more natural; and 2) because it is a useful crutch. If I have expressed 70-80% of the sentiment already but can’t think of the vocabulary to finish the sentence, a quick ‘blablabla’ finishes it up without too much fumbling. It’s not the only crutch that I use in French either. I still don’t feel super comfortable with the ‘Futur Simple’ tense, mostly because I can easily get around it by using the ‘to go + verb’ equivalent (e.g. “I am going to eat later”).

Crutches have a very negative connotation, but they can be super useful. In first trying to approach a difficult task, like learning a language, crutches can help to get to one’s first conversation in the target language more easily. This in turn boosts motivation and increases the likelihood of continuing with the learning process. I like to think of these tools then not as crutches, but as scaffolding. They are incredibly useful in the beginning to erect a building, but at some point, when the majority of work is done, they should probably come down. So I’m thankful for my scaffolding because it got me to where I am today, but I will also continue to work toward further progress by slowly bringing it down.

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