October 20, 2013, by Guest blog

First words in Bordeaux

The first words in French are, without a doubt, the hardest. “Excusez-moi, où se trouve l’arrêt de bus?” were specifically my first French words to a real live French person (the lady at the helpdesk at Bordeaux-Merignac airport, to be precise.) It’s a bit like getting into a swimming pool really. You can dip your toes in, sit on the side and dangle your legs in the water, or just dive right on in. And, just as with the swimming pool, it’s actually a lot more comfortable in the long run to just dive right on into the French language, than worrying too much about grammatical errors and the genders of nouns. Most of the Bordelais I’ve met just really appreciate that you’re giving French a try, rather than attempting the classic ‘If I speak English very slowly and loudly, hopefully they’ll understand’ which I feel like they are often subjected to by tourists.

My first impressions of the beautiful town of Bordeaux have sadly been marred by the difficulties I’m having in finding somewhere to live. At the time of writing, I am entering my third week in Bordeaux’s Auberge de Jeunesse, which, whilst very nice as hostels go, is nonetheless a hostel, and not like having a real home in Bordeaux at all. Due to the stress of constantly being turned down by landlords (the main reasons cited are: lack of French guarantor and a stay of only seven or eight months not being anywhere near long enough) I often don’t see a lot of the beauty of this wonderful city. I know, in my heart, that it’s a shame, but my head (the part of me that really wants to find somewhere to live!) is completely in control right now. Luckily, this means that I don’t spend an awful lot of time being homesick, and have practically mastered the use of the Bordeaux public transport system, since I spend so much time going to apartment viewings in far flung corners of the CUB (Communauté Urbaine de Bordeaux.)

As to my first impressions of the primary school in Villenave-d’Ornon where I am to spend twelve hours a week as an English assistant, those are much more positive. All the members of staff have been tremendously welcoming, and within my first few days I was being swamped with the cutest pictures drawn by my young charges. Since I never took French, or any other Modern Foreign Language in primary school, I can’t make a true comparison between the methodologies of teaching, but I find it very different from how I was taught foreign languages in secondary school. I don’t quite know whether this is because of the age difference or because the French simply choose to teach languages in a different way than the English. Perhaps I may find out during the course of the year?

Posted in First impressions