“Do You Speak French Now?”
I can’t believe how fast this has come. We’re heading home. We spent last week in Lyon doing some final errands and seeing the sights.
Now we’re in Ottawa to visit JM’s family before heading back to California in mid-August.
It’s odd to be back in an English environment. I’m getting severe information overload from being able to easily understand what is going on. I could have happily missed overhearing this little gem while I was in in the Chicago airport:
“Never take a sleeping pill and a laxative at the same time.”
Even after a year, it is still not easy for me to understand French. It did get better, of course. Now I can often (but not always) make myself understood if I have enough time and the person I’m talking to is very patient or adequately motivated. I would feel quite fluent if I only talked to people at the farmer’s market and the parents waiting to pick up their kids from the school bus.
But the truth is I still don’t speak French. Typically I don’t understand someone speaking to me without repetition, I figure out what to say about five minutes after it would have been appropriate, and I frequently discover that I have completely misunderstood the entire topic of conversation.
To summarize: I can buy food, pick my sick kid up from school, and get info from a tourist office in French. I can’t discuss ideas, understand humor, or have an interesting conversation except in English.
My expectations for this year were MUCH higher. But the reality was that I didn’t live in French even though I was in France. I continued to work in English, spoke English at home, met any person in a 20-mile radius who spoke English, and easily kept in touch with English-speaking friends through the magic social media and the free phone calls (thank you Vonage!). On one hand it was great because I wasn’t lonely and depressed. But it wasn’t conducive to achieving fluency.
As one very direct old lady in the village said about my mastery of French this year: “It is better, but it is not good.” She is right.
Perhaps we’ll need to go back and fix that some day.