On Speaking French

As I am getting closer and closer to having my apartment just like I want it (the goal is probably unreachable, but I strive), I find myself wondering what I will do with my time when I no longer need to be interior designer, plumber, and furniture arranger.  I will finally be able to answer the question posed to me by many: what are you going to DO in France?

And as I asked myself, I wondered – write? draw? Start a Meetup?  No answers were forthcoming.  But I realized I have visitors until the second week of May and the question doesn’t need to be answered immediately.  Isn’t procrastination wonderful?

But I don’t think I have to wait for May for the answer.  The Universe seems to be moving things right along.

The wonderful Meetup of Expats has been a great resource.  The Brit told me about Conversation Exchange which I have written about previously.  Up to today, I have three people I have met with for conversation, one quite regularly, one semi-regularly and the last scheduling difficulties have postponed us from meeting again  until May.  Nice.

And in the last week, language, language, language.  The CE tax attorney told me his wife – quite spontaneously – offered to meet with me for an hour each week to just speak French to help me along.

Four other quite interesting people have contacted me on CE itself.  We are set to meet in May.  One is a life coach like me, another used to be a director of some type of adult learning, another a history teacher and the last… just a business woman, I guess.

And yesterday at the expat Meetup, Christianne (she is French – the Meetup is both expats and French) suggested we meet for 2 hours each week.  1 hr each English/French.  She wants to improve her English – she is quite fluent but idioms, don’t you know?  And she used to teach English to foreigners so she said she can teach me and explain why things are said certain ways.  Woo Hoo me!

If I schedule this right, I will be having 2 conversations or so a day starting in May.  That should kick-start my fluency.  Oh, and I forgot Sabine (a retired law professor also from the Meetup) and I are going to meet in May also.  She has helped me with my French phone issues.

Oh. French phone story. I get texts from the phone company about the plan.  One says this is how much you have left of data.  Then it said “votre credit de communication est epuise.”  Which means  your communication credit is used up.    But the phone works.  (of course, I can’t recharge it online because I do not have a French credit card.  I have to go to a Tabac – tobacco store to pay for a code which I then can enter on line).  Still – that message is disconcerting.  Wanting resolution, I stop in an SFR store and ask.  The gentleman does speak English.

What’s funny is the text breaks the work communication because it’s too big for one line.  So one line says “communicatio” and the next says “n est epuise.”

Now in French, the negative is expressed by placing ne before the verb and pas after.  So the clerk tells me it says “n’est epuise.”  It’s not used up.  They forgot a word.  Well, ok, sometimes they might use the ne or the pas alone but not ususally, I don’t think,  in a formal notice.  Then I realize the “n” goes with the “communicatio.”  When I point that out to him, his response – they forgot the “ne pas.”

Like what?  Attendez! Quoi?  At that point I gave up – the phone works. He clearly has no interest in researching this – if the phone works, why bother? Who knows what they mean.  And it’s a prepaid monthly plan so it should work til mid-May and recharge time.

Back to the French…

I am more and more comfortable speaking French, but I do need to take some time to look at a text book again from time to time.  Sometimes I am just chatting away and suddenly I realize that I am thinking in French and my brain stops in amazement and all the words then tumble over themselves and pile up sort of like a traffic jam of rear-ending cars.  I need AAA to tow my brain away and give it a jump start!

And speaking of idioms… I was earlier in this post… it is of the most interesting parts of this language business.   I catch myself thinking something in English – like using a metro ticket when I didn’t need to and thinking that I had “burned that ticket.”  And I stop and realize my French friends might not understand that.  It happens with other thoughts.  So my French is making me pay more attention to my English speech.

Then there’s the issue of accent.  I have no clue  where my accent falls on a scale of terrible to great.  I get compliments, some people clearly understand me.  And others: others look at me as if I crawled out from under a rock which no language skills.  I repeat and repeat and finally they deign to say exactly the same word in a tone with a facial expression that says “Oh so you meant to say this???”  And I swear to you, their pronunciation is almost identical to mine.  As I ponder this, it seems that most of those people happen to be waiters.  Hmmmm


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