April 7, 2014, by Guest blog
Not moving in with a French person is perhaps my one regret from the whole year
It is with mild shame that I concede that the vast majority of my close friends here in Toulouse speak English. I would argue in my defence that this was in part due to my initial accommodation placement, and the fact that I was one of eight students studying Economics or Law with French from the University of Nottingham. We were housed on a different campus comprising of mostly medical and science students – a group who give new meaning to the terms ‘hard work’ and ‘antisocialism’. The accommodation itself ensured this purely because each room was completely self-contained with individual kitchens so that there was no need to ever speak to anyone else except in passing in the corridors. I realised about 2 weeks before moving out that there was in a fact a ‘common room’ with a pool table in a different part of the building, but this was completely unadvertised and open for a mere two hours in the evenings.
I realised that I would have to work a little harder to put myself out of my comfort zone, because of the huge population of native English speakers and the desire of most other Erasmus students to practise their English. Rugby proved to be my saving grace in this respect. Apart from two other English speakers, the teams were composed entirely of French guys and so I was forced to learn the vocab quickly and was able to find a group of friends outside of the Erasmus bubble. It is still my firm belief that French students are far more concerned with their studies than students in England, but I was relieved to find some who enjoyed a beer afterwards, and it was a good opportunity to speak the language and gain some confidence – although losing to France in the six nations has been a low point and I am yet to hear the end of it!
I would say however that since moving into a colocation in the centre of town at the beginning of February my confidence has improved vastly. Although I’m living with a German student, we only converse in French. I have found the process of constantly having to think in French at all hours of the day without fear of embarrassment (we both make mistakes) has improved my confidence in speaking to actual French people, and allowed me to zone in on specific bits of vocab I don’t know. I can’t recommend strongly enough the importance of immersion if you really want to pick up the language – not moving in with a French person is perhaps my one regret from the whole year. However, should the need arise, I will have a few people to help with any translations in the future…
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