I have my next big French test on Monday. On my last French test in May I managed to score 87%, which means that technically I am no longer a Basic Speaker and I am now an Independent Speaker.
Since then I have moved from group classes to one-on-one classes twice a week. We started right back at the beginning from the present tense, then past tense, future tense, and conditional tense. The classes are exhausting, but it’s good to be forced to speak French for over an hour, twice a week.
I have had a few very tiny real-world successes that give me encouragement:
- I have asked for and understood directions to find some WD40 (dooble-vay day quarante) in a hardware store
- I have ordered pizza on the telephone, and the correct food was waiting for me at the restaurant
- I talked to my neighbours about the weather
- I explained the location of a parcel that I required to the receptionist
- I gave directions to Ikea to someone lost on the Metro
- I had a five minute conversation with a monolingual francophone at a party
When I listen to people speak, I still find myself frantically translating each word into English, instead of simply letting the meaning wash over me. And when I am browsing the web, it is all too tempting to let Google Translate do the work for me. I am still completely lost when I listen to a conversation between friends on the metro or even a dubbed episode of Buffy.
It is really hard to stay motivated to sit down and practice French every single day, and so easy to stay wrapped up in a tight Anglophone bubble. My iPhone is loaded with French apps and my shelf with French textbooks, yet it’s much more fun to watch an episode of Make it or Break it than conjugate verbs or watch les news on TV5Monde.
3 Comments »
Posted by: Lydia in Brussels, tags: fame, French
A while back I was interviewed by a local newspaper for their feature on expats living in Brussels. Even though the interview was in English, it was then translated into French before publication.
So it appears that I walk around with the ability to talk fluently and eloquently with phrases like “Nous adorons être ici. Nous voulions vivre dans une ville multiculturelle. J’ai un travail qui me passionne. Surtout, j’apprends le français. En Australie, il n’y a pas de cours de langue vivante obligatoire à l’école. Tout le monde parle anglais. Mon oreille a des difficultés à comprendre ce que l’on me dit” (“We love being here. We wanted to live in a multicultural city. I have a job that interests me. And above all, I can learn French. In Australia, there are no mandatory foreign language classes in schools. Everyone speaks English. [Over here] my ears have difficulty understanding what it is that people are saying to me.”)
Edit: Full text here
10 Comments »
Posted by: Lydia in Brussels, tags: exam, French
Last week I had my first Intermediate French test. It was very difficult – we were tested future and past tenses, negations, propositions, and the use of him/her/them/there/it/… (le/la/les/y/lui/leur/en). So many of the conjugations are irregular, and my vocabulary is very small. I only got 59% on the test, but I am actually quite proud that I passed it at all.
My ear is starting to really improve, I can pick out words that I recognise more easily, and now I can have a basic conversation with someone – as long as it is about kittens, food, or travel. I move onto Intermediate 2B next week, and I really need to lift my game. In order to keep up with the pace of the class, I need to learn new words every single day.
Unlike the organic English language, French language has a group of Les Immortels at the Académie française to determine the correct name and gender of all new words, and to regulate the usage of old ones. Over the years, these have been some of their rulings:
Je céderai (I will give up) will now be spelled Je cèderai
Elle considérerait (She would consider) will now be spelled Elle considèrerait
Ils interpréteront (They will interpret) will now be spelled Ils interprèteront
Crémerie (Cheese shop) will now be spelled Crèmerie
Pedigree will now be spelled Pédigrée
Revolver will now be spelled Révolver
They are even changing the spelling of August, in their war on d’accent circonflexe, and thus août will now be spelled aout. Furthermore,
bûcher (stake) will now be spelled bucher
Elle connaît (She knows) will now be spelled Elle connait
Even the beloved Île de la Cité and the Île St-Louis in Paris should properly be known as IIe de la Cité and the Ile St-Louis.
C’est la vie.
3 Comments »
Posted by: Lydia in Brussels, tags: French
One of the most charming quirks that many non-native English speakers have is that of anthropomorphizing objects. When talking about my watch, the jeweler assures me that “she will still be waterproof”. A lecturer on the large intestine informs me that “he aids in the digestion of plant material”. My SAS programming tutor reminds me that “he will iterate the step until the condition is false”. When speaking in French about the weather, I must remember to say “he makes cold” and “he did have snow”.
One of the hardest things for me is learning which objects are feminine and which are masculine. When talking about an object, I search my brain for the word for “it”, completely forgetting that I should be using “he” or “she”. I am tempted to place stickers of mustaches and bows on all our items in an effort to start remembering gender.
Image from Snugg
5 Comments »