I started French this week. Yep, there was room for me. Thank goodness! I was getting pretty tired of hanging out with Abbey.
We had Monday off of course, and because this is the government we spent all day Tuesday doing administrative stuff. So I’ve really only had three days of French, but I can already see how it’s possible to go from nilch to proficiency in six months.
- Sheer time — You spend four hours every day in class and four hours every day doing homework or in the language lab. (Yes, it’s as tiring as it sounds.)
- Immersion – In addition to what we learn, we pick up stuff from our teacher who speaks to us mostly in French. I hear that soon she’ll drop the English completely so we’ll be forced to pick up even more.
- Even more serious immersion — Word on the street is that at month four or five you have the opportunity to go on a several-week immersion trip to somewhere like Martinique or the south of France or Montreal. They haven’t mentioned this to us yet, and it seems in poor form to ask while I’m still working on saying that my name is Andy and I’m not a diplomat, but you better believe I’ll be taking advantage of this opportunity if rumors are true. (Don’t worry — it’s not on your dime. I’ll have to pay for it, and Alex will too, but she’ll still get her salary and not have to use vacation time while we’re away.)
- Resources — The language lab has so many tools it’s unbelievable. Certainly no high school and probably no university language department has this much stuff at their disposal. And while you’re using the programs an instructor is listening to you and pipes in your headphone from time to time to help. Weird, but cool.
- Technique — In high school and college I studied vocab lists and took written tests. I could read German alright, but speak it? Not so much. Here it’s different. We spent a ton of time on pronunciation and pay much more attention to speaking than writing and reading. We’re getting a good amount of speaking practice now when we’re in a a 15-person class, and after next week we’ll break down permanently into smaller classes of only 4-5, so we’ll be talking in French all the time.
Also worth noting is that Alex and I aren’t in the same class. There are a few other couples starting French too, and they’re all together. Curious. Alex promises she didn’t request that we be in different classes. Despite what she thinks, I didn’t either — I would have had no idea who to talk to. But I think it actually worked out for the best. We learn slightly different things and it’s great to compare notes when we get home. Plus, since she has the later class she has to walk the dog in the morning.