December 15, 2013, by Guest blog

Discovering new words everyday

Hello and Bonjour à tous, I hope everyone is well. I can’t believe that Christmas is already upon us… how time flies when you’re having fun!

Everything is going well for me in France; after my first three months I feel as though I have fully settled in and made my mark on the community. I must admit that I am looking forward to returning home to England for the Christmas holidays though. I haven’t got long to wait now (as I’m writing this I only have six days to go!)

Before arriving in France, my confidence to speak was lacking. I was always scared of getting something wrong and would spend hours worrying and preparing potential conversations in my head. Needless to say, that is not possible when you live everyday with people who don’t speak English. Living in France has forced me to have confidence in my ability; if I want or need something I have to speak French otherwise I won’t get it. Speaking French has become vital. Luckily, I have had a lot of positive comments from the people that I have met and spoken with: everyone seems to think that I am more than capable of getting by in French and one person even told me I was bilingual!

Something else I had trouble with before my arrival was comprehension. It’s not that I couldn’t understand but that trying to understand took so much effort and concentration that I would zone in and out while somebody was speaking and was therefore incapable of following a conversation. That has had to change because as well as speaking, comprehension is also vital in the environments that I live and work in. At school, I must be capable of following propositions and instructions from the teachers and I must also follow the conversations between the children in the classroom. In my home situation I must also follow conversations and be alert to what is happening throughout the day.

As I may have mentioned in my first blog entry, I am currently living in the Aquitaine region in the south-western part of metropolitan France. Luckily most of the people I have met do not originally come from here and so do not speak with the strong accent of the region. Nevertheless, I have met several people who, I am sure, do not even speak French. I recognize some of the words but the accent is so strong that the end of one word seems to get lost in the beginning of the next. I am crossing my fingers that I won’t return to Nottingham next year with a strange ‘south-western meets English’ French accent!

Another problem I have encountered is that while speaking French on a one to one basis is usually fine, following a conversation with several people involved is a completely different story! During my first week in France, I was invited to eat lunch with some of the teachers that I would be working with throughout the year. I can honestly say that I left the school that day feeling well and truly overwhelmed. I didn’t understand a thing; they all spoke at the same time and at 100 mph. This, alongside the screaming children in the playground, made communication impossible for me. Needless to say, my first week (and if I’m honest my first month) in France was absolutely exhausting. Thankfully, everyday doesn’t use up so much energy now, which I am taking as a great sign of improvement!

The great thing about living in France and immersing myself in day to day French life is that there are so many ways to discover new language and I feel as though I discover new words everyday. Something that I enjoy doing is cooking and so during my free time I have been watching cooking programs on television. I have also made cakes and meals for the family that I live with; in order to do this I had to shop for the ingredients and therefore also learn the vocabulary for the things I needed.

Living with a family also means that I have access to all of their materials, for example, books, magazines, films and of course their conversations. I also spend a lot of time with the children in the family. I play games with them, watch them play football at the weekend and help them with their homework. All of these seemingly easy and fun activities have actually become a way in which I can learn new vocabulary.

Additionally, every time I teach a topic to the children at school, or to the children that I tutor, I must learn the French vocabulary for what I want to teach in English so that if there is a problem in understanding, I can speak French to help their comprehension.

Evidently my grammar has also improved slightly since my arrival just through day to day communication. Working in a school and living with children has helped me to recognize and reuse imperative, negative and interrogative forms in particular. I have been using my grammar text book to practice exercises when I have free time and in the new year, the father of the family has asked me if I would like to have an hour grammar lesson with him each week. It is essential that I revise French grammar and practice my written French as well as my oral for my final year at Nottingham.

So, as far as my French language is concerned I feel as though I have improved no end. I have more confidence than ever in my ability and I have definitely widened my use of vocabulary. However, I do feel as though I am coming to a block in my improvement; I understand and I am understood but now it is essential that I work on the specifics. Being here has helped me to identify what I need to improve on and I now can work on that in the new year!

Until next time…


Aimee x

Posted in Language acquisition