December 31, 2013, by Guest blog
I had no choice but to embrace the language
It’s been six months since I’ve been living in France now and I must admit, I have made a lot of progress.
My summer began in a small village in the high Alps called La Chapelle en Valgaudemar as an au pair for 2 months. To be honest when I first arrived in France, my level of when I realized there were no English speaking people in the village and that the children I was an au pair for spoke only French. Therefore I had no choice but to embrace the language.French comprehension and speaking was not great. So I was kind of thrown into the deep end
This was challenging at first. I found speaking and trying to understand others extremely tiring, as I was constantly thinking of what to say in French and concentrating when others were speaking to me.
But even when concentrating on what someone was saying to me, I found it difficult to understand what he or she had meant. Yet I would often say “oui je comprend”(yes I understand) when in fact I had no idea. I must have been too embarrassed to admit that my level of French wasn’t great and felt self-conscious of asking them to repeat themselves constantly. But I soon learnt the random “oui” (yes) answer wasn’t a good idea as this often led to further confusion. So after a while I plucked up the courage to say “non je ne comprend pas” (no, I don’t understand) and I guess I started progressing from there.
Although my hours were long as an au pair and I worked every day, I still had a social life in the small village with a group of young French people. Its one thing being able to converse one on one with someone in French but following group conversations was another thing. Hanging out with my French friends altogether was frustrating at first, as I didn’t always get the drift of their conversations. This made me miss home a lot from time to time yet didn’t discourage me from hanging out with them and soon enough it did get better.
Every morning I’d tell myself I could do it and by night I would write down or look up all the new vocabulary I had learnt in that day. Although, looking back, I think I did have a great knowledge of the French language to begin with but lacked confidence in myself.
After three weeks in La Chapelle en Valgaudemar, conversing with the children and parents in French, playing Barbies and Mickey mouse in French, reading French fairytales, watching French TV, meeting new people in the village and going out with my French friends I had made a lot of progress in a short space of time and gained that confidence in myself.
Things only got better from there. By the end of my 2 months in the south of France, I was thinking and dreaming in French and that’s when I knew… I can speak French pretty well.
Montpellier is a different experience to La Chapelle en Valgaudemar, firstly being the fact that it’s a student city in the south of France, which I admit, I love. However, being a large student city there are many English speakers there too, which I think has made it harder for me to progress my French language as quickly as I did in the mountains. Then again, that’s not to say my French hasn’t improved since being in Montpellier.
From making French friends, going out with them and speaking French at work with my colleagues, I’d say I’ve spent my time well so far. My range of vocabulary has broadened, my use of French expressions has developed, my comprehension of the French language has certainly improved and I no longer find the use of the language tiring.
Therefore as a result of my six months in France, today I can happily say that I have acquired the French Language.
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