French progression

I recently re-signed up for French classes at the Alliance Française in Marseille. I hadn’t been taking the courses for a while after I left for my two month summer back in the USA (to work, silly!). I didn’t want to invest as much money, nor time as I did in the beginning of my time in France because the two remaining years of my PhD were looming and I needed to work! (for new readers: during my first two months in France I did 16 hours of French classes a week, the remaining 5 months I did 8 hours a week. Shew!). I really wanted to continue progressing though. This wasn’t as difficult for the listening comprehension side since I hear French everywhere I go (and my professors almost exclusively speak to me in French now) but for speaking … I am really good at avoiding it sometimes and I needed to improve. More than anything I wanted all of my French skills on the same level so that at the end of my time here I can pass the DELF/DALF, either B2 or if I am lucky C1 (I might be able to scrape by).


I asked what my options were if I wanted to do ONE day a week (4 hours) and really focus on speaking (phonetics/pronunciations, etc.). They had a B1/B2 level class that meets on Friday’s 9-13h. Sounded great ! But to be sure I wasn’t jumping in to a much higher level than I was capable of I started the first week in the A2 class. After the first few minutes I knew I was too advanced for that class and I felt bad because I was the one talking a lot (and not the other 12 people in the class). Sad though, because I really liked the teacher and the students too. So the next week I did the B1/2 class. Long story short, the level was higher but I HATED it. I was there for three weeks, there were WAY too many people, The same ones would speak all the time and I felt like I didn’t even get the chance, I didn’t particularly like the teachers style for the class, and so on… I was sad. I mean, I am paying quite a bit to be in that class and there was one week where I spoke aloud twice! TWICE! That was my purpose for the class, speaking. And I wasn’t. So I asked what my other options were. They had a C1/2 (which they said might be too advanced for me, though I think I could’ve held my own) or to try the A2 class again … it was smaller and I could still get experience speaking. So I did that … and it was fun!


I guess the reason for this post is to say that I am still progressing in French but going “down” a level at the AF made me feel like a loser 😦 , even if it’s only purpose was to give me more of an opportunity to speak. We even did some phonetic stuff, which I really lack. And so perhaps I’ll stay in that  “lower level” class. We’ll see…

It’s never a cut and dry process, learning languages. Some days I feel awful because I am not “fluent”, or someone comments on my accent or that I don’t speak perfectly. But hey! I am still learning! It’s funny how everyone’s opinion is different … I have been in Marseille, total, 12 months … (Nov -2012 – Feb 2014, 3 months in the USA) … should I be fluent?!? Perhaps some people can swing it but unfortunately that isn’t my main goal while I am here.

I get a range of reactions to my French abilities:

“WOW, you’ve really improved! It’s amazing really what progress you’ve made!” — Today, Professor and advisor, CNRS-Marseille

“Where’s that accent from?” –guy at cupcake shop (not my fave comment. underlying meaning if that is the first thing you say to me = you don’t speak well)

“Oh sorry, you don’t speak French, do you?” — My enemy at the Monoprix grocery store in Marseille (and perhaps other people when they hear my BF and I speaking English. Whatever.)

“Oh wow, you’re American! You really don’t have much of an accent. And definitely not an American one when you speak French. You’re level is really impressive” — my BFs work colleagues

“Your comprehension is impressive, I wish I understood English like you understand French … but you don’t speak well . ” — my old landlord, whom I loath

So what’s a perfectionist, at times self-conscience girl supposed to do? What should I think? Should I be proud? Proud that I sat through a completely incomprehensible Acoustics lecture today, in French, where the part I didn’t understand was the math … and not the French words? Proud that I am living abroad and 2 years ago didn’t know more than “Mercy bo-coo” 😉

Yeah. I think I should.

Hey you. YEAH YOU (me). Remember this 20 mins from now when you can’t figure out how to say what you wanna say en français. ok?


One thought on “French progression

  1. I recently attended my OFII appointment and was SO HAPPY when they waived my language lession requirement! If you want to improve speaking, watch more French TV and make your boyfriend speak French with you! Good luck, and it’s great that you’ve found a class you like!

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