Our immersion trip is over and we’re back to our classes at FSI. Like any learning experience, our French utilization was full of ups and downs, highs and lows, peaks and valleys.
Good: Successfully arriving at our first hotel in Nice, and explaining that we were early but asking if we could leave our bags behind the front desk until check-in time.
Bad: Successfully arriving at our hotel in Marseille and having no idea what the staff was saying to us. I blame the Marseille accent.
Good: Reading and completely understanding the service disruptions posted at the tram station in Marseille.
Bad: Struggling with the Marseille public transportation website which was only in French. I’m going to blame the accent again with this one.
Good: Negotiating, in French of course, some extra conversation classes at our school in Nice.
Bad: Failing to negotiate, even in English, a discounted rate on our breakfast in Marseille.
Good: Ordering dinner in French every night and always getting what we asked for.
Bad: Somehow accidentally ordering a coffee at a bakery when we’re pretty sure we didn’t ask for one.
Good: Realizing that everything we’re being taught at FSI is real. The words and phrases we learn aren’t just theory like imaginary numbers in math. They have real uses outside of the classroom. They are part of a real language that millions of people use every day. Learning French is not just some futile exercise designed to demoralize students at FSI. Understanding this gives us a great deal of motivation to keep going despite the difficulty.
Bad: At the same time realizing just how far we still have to go to be remotely conversational in real world situations. It’s great that we know two words for “car.” Unfortunately there are probably six more that we’ve never heard. We found that we could ask questions and usually understand the answers. But when we were in situations where we had no idea what to expect, and people were speaking at a normal rate without dumbing it down, things got real tough real fast.
Our trip was a good one and we walk away feeling motivated as we head down the final stretch (maybe) of our French lessons.
The fact that we could be sitting in Turkish class two years from now trying desperately to avoid using French is not something we allow ourselves to think about.