April 24, 2015, by Rachel Bainbridge

Seeing noticeable differences in fluency and comprehension

After three months of living and working in France I’m currently back in the UK for a week or so to catch up with friends and family over the Christmas period. This has also allowed me some time to reflect on how much I’ve done and just how far I’ve come in terms of improving my level of French in this time.

It has to be said that even with all the learning you do throughout school and university, nothing can really prepare you for being thrown into the deep end of an actual conversation with a native French speaker. In the first couple of weeks even the most basic of tasks, such as collecting a parcel at the post office or paying at the supermarket checkout, become a challenge of your comprehension and vocabulary skills. At times, in the staff room at the school where I teach, I felt like a mute, sitting there and trying to take everything in as different conversations were going on around me. The speed of speech is a shock to the system and took me a while to get used to – there are many occasions where someone asked me a question and I had to ask for it to be repeated!

However, it is important that you are not afraid to do this as over time I found that I was learning lots of common phrases and expressions. Keeping these in a vocabulary book is essential – I still can’t believe how many new words I am writing in there every week, ranging from slang to new foods I discover.

I have pushed myself into speaking French as much as possible on a day-to-day basis. Regular trips to the gym result in informal conversations with other gym-goers and I often have a quick chat with the cleaners when I see them in the school corridors! Even though these conversations may seem trivial, they have improved my fluency and comprehension massively. Additionally, reading the local newspaper a couple of times a week has allowed me to pick up more formal vocabulary as well as catching up on what has been going on in the area.

Perhaps most importantly though is the fact that my Mexican flatmate can’t speak English, meaning we communicate purely in French. There are times where we are speaking together and one of us can’t think of the necessary translation of a word. However, we always find a way around the lack of vocabulary  – usually by phrasing the sentence differently and then reverting to an online dictionary to note down the correct translation.

If I can already see noticeable improvements in my language acquisition at the halfway stage, I can only imagine how good my level will be by the end of my time here.

Until next time!

Posted in Language acquisition