Language aquisition

J’ai l’esprit de l’escalier

Everybody must have been in this situation; you are having a conversation (or argument) with somebody and only once the conversation is over do you realise what you should have said.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about:



This is how I feel after almost every interaction that I have in spoken French. Probably because I am currently stronger at reading and writing than I am at talking. Because when you talk you’re put on the spot and don’t have time to mulls things over. So, in short: I need to think faster. (I wonder how good I’d be at French if I snorted several lines of cocaine)

I find it interesting that when I was searching for a name for the above mentioned situation, the only expression I came across was a French phrase: ‘avoir l’esprit de l’escalier’ – meaning to have the wit of the staircase i.e. to think of something clever but only as you are on your way out of the building. In fact, prehaps I should coin a new phrase refering specifically to learning a language ‘Parler le français de l’escalier’ – maybe not that exactly, but something clever… It’ll come to me later.

I don’t think the phrase ‘avoir l’esprit de l’escalier’ is actually used very often in spoken French and apparently there is also the equivalent in English (read American): ‘To have elevator wit’ – but I hadn’t heard of that before.

Anyway, the next time this happens to you, remember that its not so bad, it rarely happens in your own language, just take a deep breath and think of me having to live with that feeling everyday!


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