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?