"I just know"
"It just feels right"
"I just do it automatically"
Ever had a question answered in that way?
I certainly have.
Many, many times.
You see, I learned French in school, and then lived in France for over fifteen years, even went
to university there. So I am bilingual in the language.
Yet one thing always eluded me.
Can you guess what it is?
Like other romance languages, French follows a system where nouns are either masculine or feminine.
Examples can be:
But for the life of me, apart from some very basic examples, I could never remember which nouns were masculine and which nouns were feminine.
I mean, where was the logic in a chair and a table being feminine and a book and a pencil being masculine?
I could perhaps see the slight irony with cars being feminine and a guys life-long love affair with them! :-)
And then I will never forget how for every assignment I wrote through two Masters degrees in university in Paris, I would spend at least eight to twelve hours just looking up every single noun and highlighting them either salmon coloured for feminine or sky blue for masculine. I wasn't proud of my colour coding, a little too gender specific for my liking, but it was essential for me to then go through my paper and make sure all the grammar structures correlated to those masculine and feminine forms.
Time and again I would ask native French speakers how they could remember which gender each noun was, were there any secrets to remembering, any logic I could apply...
And every single time, almost like a preset recording, they would shrug their shoulders and throw me one of the sentences in the intro.
“I just know”
"It just sounds right"
I mean, how was that supposed to help me?
I felt like I was fighting a losing battle and practically resigned myself to the fact that memorising all the noun genders in French would be my eternal pain point.
Quite honestly, remembering genders has always defeated me.
So please, what's your secret to remembering the gender of nouns in the language you are learning?
(And if anyone has an amazing technique to learn all the noun genders in French, please let me know!)