Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Language Learning 90s Style.

Today, Anastasia would say I am on a journey to the past, uncovering some of the reasons behind my love for languages and why they are a huge part of my identity. I never really know how old I actually was when I first babbled in foreign tongues and formed a sign but it doesn’t really matter. Languages were all around me and I simply got infected by the bug. French came before British Sign Language but that detail is insignificant.

We’ve already seen how 25 year old Emma keeps on top of languages, but how did young Emma’s brain soak them up.

Muzzy VHS videos.

Related imageAs my primary school didn’t teach languages, I went to an after-school French club, maybe once or twice a week. I don’t really remember much of them now but it was run by an MFL teacher at the local high school and as well as using fun and games, she taught us using these videos. I think she used them as an end-of-lesson summary as well as listening practise. They might have successfully helped me to learn French but I’m no longer afraid to say that I didn’t like them. Placid, shy and easily frightened little me was scared of the fluffy green bear called Muzzy.

They’ve certainly stuck in my head though because I can also remember the adverts on tv. Sometimes my brain will recite the spiel they used to have on the advert and it will run around my head like a hamster on a wheel.


Tots TV

And here we’ve jumped from a programme I didn’t like to one I loved! It ran from 1993 to 1998 and I could have watched a lot of the episodes as I would have been between 1 and 6 years old. Apart from the theme tune and Tilly being my favourite character, I surprisingly don’t recall much of it. And again, I was also only reminded of the programme a few days ago when I saw someone reference it on Facebook. It was a fun and educational programme and the BBC need to bring it back!

Noddy books (or as the French call him, Oui-Oui)

Related imageMy grandparents used to spend two months of the year in France and they always brought back some presents for my sister and I. My sister got a lot of bead sets and crafty things, where as I would get a couple of books, and this particular Noddy book was one of them – to translate it “Noddy and the magic rubber.”

I’m certain I read it, but the question is whether I understood it or not and I honestly don’t know. My French proficiency as a child is a complete mystery to me!


My maternal grandparents

I spent about 70% of my early years with my grandparents and it would have been during that time when my grandmother would mutter words of French around the house. Going to France for two months a year and staying in the lesser touristy areas, she would pick up words and phrases and ultimately bring them back home for me to learn. It was never forced but often at dinner times, we’d say the odd command in French – the one I remember the most being “puis-je avoir le beurre, s’il vous plaît” (can I have the butter please?).  I think we did it so much that it became automatic.

And on racking my brain, I think that might be everything, If I had to point to one of them and say, “this is the reason why I was good at French throughout my school days,” the finger would land on the after-school lessons. I revisited a lot of the same topics and vocabulary at high school and often it felt like I didn’t have to try. Granted I had to learn the complicated grammar from scratch, but apart from that there were never many late nights cramming vocabulary for an upcoming test.

If I had to use one word to describe my language learning – in regards to French – I think it would be ‘fortunate.’ ‘Grateful’ is another word that comes to mind.

Whatever the word is, being exposed to other languages at an early age has certainly made its mark.

Thank you for joining me on this trip down memory lane.

I might be back at some point with a similar post for BSL!

Have a brazzle dazzle day!

19 thoughts on “Language Learning 90s Style.”

  1. Muzzy !! we had the english ones showed to us in 3rd grade ! aaah, I still remember a bit of what it looks like ahaha I’ve also read soo many Oui-Ouis .. but im mainly french .. :’)
    As for me … I was more of a late learner … I just couldn’t understand HOW the brain could just, understand both languages ?! In canadian schools *in my days*, we had english classes mendatory from 3rd grade to the senior year of high school – and I only started to understand in that last year. Granted, coming from more of a french hometown rather than a bilingual one like I am now didn’t helped much x) but yeah.

    awww that’s cute of your grandparents to learn you a bit of it that way !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Both French and Spanish were mandatory for me but only at high school. With French I had the advantage though because I’d had the lessons from an early age. I could also pick up the Spanish vocabulary and grammar quickly but speaking it was always a problem because I can’t roll my ‘r’s properly.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We had Muzzy Mór in primary school which was Muzzy in Irish (Mór means big). I’ve been looking for the Irish version and haven’t been able to find it anywhere. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I reckon it isn’t produced anymore. What puzzles me though is that I googled Muzzy and it took me to an American website – the pricing is in dollars – when Muzzy is produced by the BBC, a remarkably British organisation and constitution.

      And you’re welcome. This was a nice trip down memory lane for me too, even if I never liked the big green monster that was Muzzy.


    1. Thanks. I actually really enjoyed that jaunt down memory lane. It reminds me why I loved languages and what I could get from them. I just wish I had the same feelings now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know what you mean – sometimes I’m a bit nervous to reread old books in case I don’t love them as much. I also wish I could ‘absorb’ more from foreign languages as it seemed much more effortless when I was younger…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well studies have shown that language learning is more effortless when we’re younger, and it makes sense considering how much you acquire and develop. This is one of the reasons why Baby Signing is huge because you can learn Sign Language before acquiring speech, well the basics anyway.

        For me, university changed everything in terms of foreign language learning. The way I got treated by some of my tutors made me uneasy about speaking and I just lost all confidence with it. I want to regain the love I had for languages pre-university and I don’t know how to get it back.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I struggled at university too – Lecture 1 about Italian grammar sent me straight to the library for a book of English grammar as I didn’t know the difference between a transitive and intransitive verb in my own language, let alone another. Japanese, which I started from scratch, I almost gave up after just 2 months of study (during which I was hospitalised). Having missed a lot of classes and my medical notes not having reached the appropriate people, I was called in for a progress meeting and told that I should consider that I maybe just didn’t have the talent for Japanese and should give up. I went on to study abroad, get top grades and work in a Japanese company where I worked trilingually every day.
        I really wish you the best with regaining your confidence and love of languages. For me, finding TV shows and books in the target languages and listeing to music and podcasts helped a lot – but I made sure to do it without putting undue pressure on myself. Another great thing is to find a conversation exchange partner who you would actually be friends with and someone who can correct you without it feeling like destructive criticism. Hope that helps!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh I know what you mean about transitive vs intransitive. That always stumped me too. In my first year I ended up buying myself a book called English Grammar For Students of French and I still don’t get some of the finer grammar points. In hindsight, when I did my study abroad in France I should have studied at a university instead of working as a Language TA for the British Council. My grades ended up being all over the place and I came out with a degree that I’m not happy with.

        That does help and it what I am trying to do at the moment. I’m just super picky when it comes to films and tv programmes so I’m struggling to find any I like. Also when I was on a website for quite a major French broadcaster, a lot of the programmes were US or UK dubbed shows and whilst they serve a purpose, they’re not ideal. The same can be said for books although I do have quite a few French books that I kept from university. You are exactly right though and I agree with everything. I think I might have to ask my best friend if we can converse in French from time to time. She did French with me in our first year of university and she’s probably in the same boat as I am in regards to fluctuating language levels.

        Thank you xx

        Liked by 1 person

      5. lol, I bought the exact same book (except it was English Grammar for Students of Italian) From what little I know about French, it seems like it has a lot of the same grammar issues as Italian e.g. use of the subjunctive, pluperfect etc.
        I think working and studying have both pros and cons. When I went to Japan I was quite a low level so I studied at university there, whereas I progressed further in Italian through working for a few months. However, my Italian grades were all over the place because, it turns out, most Italian people don’t use the ‘textbook’ grammar… -_-
        When I moved to China I studied for the first year alongside working, then spent the next year working in the language and not learning anything new but just consolidating and practising what I had learned from my textbooks in the first year. That gave me a good grounding to continue studying.
        It’s lovely to meet another language geek and I am happy to help anytime – hope things look up! Please send me a message/ e-mail if I can help or just offer a listening ear. You’re not alone!


      6. Oh my lord, I hate the French subjunctive. That and the past historic were the tenses/moods I struggled the most with. They never seemed to stick, no matter how much I worked at them.

        I’ve actually thought about learning Italian because having already learnt French and Spanish, I don’t think it would be a huge jump for me.

        The only other time I get to talk about language is when I am with friends who studied English and linguistics so like you said, it is nice to chat with another fellow language lover. I’m also spending most of tomorrow at the library so that will be the ideal place to do some long-forgotten language work.

        Thank you xx

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Yup, tenses are a pain – in Italian I just chuck the subjunctive in fairly regularly as most Italian people I know use it all the time, even in cases not listed in the textbooks!
        I think Italian will be a cinch for you if you already have French and Spanish – my Italian friends are always telling me that I should learn Spanish! I don’t speak French well but find that I can understand quite a bit of French and Spanish when reading or listening because of all the cognates.
        Good luck with your language learning at the library tomorrow and let’s chat again soon!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I remember the advert more than the original programme itself! Even on typing this, the dialogue from the advert is playing in my head.


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