For me it is easy to pick up languages, I listen on the television, watch some French series. I watch the news every morning on BFM television to see what actualities are up. I often spend 2 weekends during the month at Brian's parent's house where I absorb and practice.
I've officially hit the level of French where no one teases me for huge errors nor accent mistakes- but little ways I pronounce my words they find cute. I find it absolutely ridicule that they like my American accent. I try my best to focus and really pronounce my words sans accent because I think the American accent sounds TERRIBLE.
I didn't, however, realize that the words we use around friends is probably not so appropriate around family or family friends. I learned this Saturday night while enjoying an invitation to an old family friend. I was surrounded by J and R, Bri's parents, and we wdere deep in discussion. I spilled a bit of wine on myself and exclaimed, "PUTAIN!" The conversation stopped short, and about 6 pairs of beady French eyes stared at me.
J softly touched my arms and said, "Tu sais, ce n'est pas un mot très gentille...". I felt aghast, wanted to run and hide in a closet. In the States I rarely cursed around people, and it was never like I was a Sailor mouth or anything. I looked down at my hands and looked back up to meet the beady eyes, "Qu'est-ce que c'est un meilleur moyen de le dire?" Then I got my next French lesson. Appropriate curse words.
I guess I was always under the assumption the French were more liberal with curse words, I'd heard 10 year olds cursing in the street, parents cursing alongside them. I would find out these people were in fact not being appropriate. Sex is freely portrayed around here, and the curse words that do pop on the screen are unblipped. Also, when speaking a second language, these words have less meaning and so if it becomes a habit, it's one that is difficult to break.
Now my struggle and my retraining:
Putain will now be MINCE!
Salop will now be salaud.
Je vais pisser will now be je vais pipi ou je vais aller au toilette
Merde will now be mince.
La bite will not be said any more.
It's not easy. I remember the day after I was talking about something and I almost slipped out a putain I covered it by saying instead; Pu----voirs... oui.. pouvoirs. The problem being putain is so much easier to say than mince, mince has a weird back of the throat I noise that I haven't quite mastered.
I guess lesson learned: just because you here the words every where does not mean they are appropriate everywhere.