December 22, 2013, by Guest blog

French grammar – My new year’s resolution

Post written by Bethan Roberts

Bonjour and bonnes fêtes de fin d’année!

The last three months really have flown by, and the Christmas holidays came as a surprise! I have been working hard at school and have managed to establish a bit of a routine. I have also been skiing most weekends, visited lots of local cities and sights.

My new life in France is busy and I sometimes feel that I do not put aside enough time to work on my grammar, so that will be my first New Year’s resolution! I do, however, feel that I have made a real effort to aid the process of language acquisition in other ways, and I can feel myself gradually becoming more confident in my French speaking abilities.

I buy a magazine (Femme Actuelle) every Monday and read it throughout the week, highlighting vocabulary that I don’t know. On Sundays I go through and find all the new words and write them down in my vocab book. It is very time consuming but I do feel that it is helping me. It took me a while to find a magazine that actually felt beneficial to my language learning, but I really enjoy the diverse topics and styles in Femme Actuelle: lots of the articles talk about interesting and relevant issues and are a goldmine for vocabulary!

Similarly I try to go the cinema once a week, although it sometimes doesn’t happen due to other commitments. I always choose French films, and I really enjoy that I can’t be distracted and I have to concentrate totally on the film. Some films are easier to understand than others, but I definitely feel like it is helping and will continue going to the cinema after Christmas. So far I have seen: La Vie Domestique; La Vie d’Adèle; Les Garçons et Guillaume à table; Violette; Gabrielle; La Venus à la fourrure. I would say that Gabrielle was the most challenging to understand as it was a Canadian film, and I really struggled to get used to the accent.

I am very lucky as the school I work in is bilingual: this means that the children have half of their lessons in English but follow the French curriculum at all times. It is a very enjoyable and interesting place to work, as I am not just stuck teaching the basics and due to the intense exposure to English, the children’s’ progress is very obvious. It does, however, mean that I have to make more of an effort to speak French at school. The teachers have been very helpful, as they know that I am here to improve my French, so we often speak in French at lunchtimes, and I have been doing some language-exchange sessions with one of the teachers who has an English exam coming up.

Of course, every new situation I come across has its own, specific challenges. For instance, a trip to the hairdressers was quite stressful. I thought that equipped with my notebook and recently looked-up hair-related vocabulary, I had managed to explain myself well, yet I spent the whole time feeling panicky! In fact, I was very pleased with the result and it felt like a small victory, as well as reaffirming to me that I LIVE here at the moment. Similarly, I have become used to ordering a baguette most days at the local boulangerie, with the odd pain au chocolat or tarte abricot when I’m feeling indulgent! Deciding to try a new type of bread caused a bit of a dilemma as I had no idea if it was masculine or feminine. A quick study of the label was no use as there were no clues to the gender. I went with my gut feeling, using “une” and was so relieved when the lady repeated it back to me and used “une” as well. I guess, to be fair, I had a 50:50 chance, and it may seem like a silly thing to even bring up, but it’s very easy to get used to doing and saying the same things as you get your own habits and routines, so I think it’s important to put yourself in those kind of situations, regardless of how petty they may seem afterwards. To sum up, being abroad has taught me that you just have to “go for it” sometimes, and either deal with the embarrassment of getting it wrong or feel smug at having gotten it right!!

Overall, I do feel like I have made some improvement in my French language, although I am very glad that I still have another four months here and am determined to make more time to go over grammar in the new term. I will also try to watch the French news more often to keep up to date with national issues and widen my vocabulary. It has become very clear to me that the Year Abroad is a “process”: the first few months here were quite stressful, getting settled into an apartment, dealing with lots of paperwork and starting a job and I had no choice but to speak and use French regardless of whether what I said was grammatically correct or not, but now I feel that I am settled and in a position to really focus on my language and identify specific areas I need to work on.

Posted in Language acquisition