Saturday, April 18, 2009
Comme un lapin dans des phares de voiture
That means "like a rabbit in the car headlights" and that is what it can often be like living in a foreign city.
Every now and again I feel comfortable with my language (in)abilities. I can usually negotiate the day to day activities ... buying baguette; visiting the supermarket; going to galleries; looking around the various music stores ... where the questions and responses tend to be the same ... one of your traditional baguettes please, and also a citron tart; i would like to buy these supplies; two tickets please; no thanks, i'm just looking ...
There are also those "just too late" moments when you realise, having walked out of an establishment .... "Oh, that's what they said to me". These are all learning moments and the next time (or perhaps the time after) when that phrase is presented I have heard it before and know the correct (or at least a) response.
But every now and again something happens and I fell like a rabbit staring into the headlights of an oncoming vehicle ... unable to understand what is happening, unable to respond or move. After all, I am meant to be an adult. Surely adults can converse with one another.
Apparently not in all cases.
This happened in class last week. It isn't quite tourist season yet and at Lutece Langue, the school where I am studying french, they placed me in a class which was above my level of knowledge and experience and in which I managed to understand and speak in during the first week. This was certainly preferable to starting with others with no french language experience. At least I've studied some french, albeit only for a year, in Australia, 5 years ago.
Unfortunately the second week was a completely different matter, they jumped into passe compose (not particularly difficult, but like anything you must learn it to know it) and the other students had already learnt these rules. Even after hearing the taped conversation played through twice ... and the tutor and the other students read out the text ... I still didn't know what was happening. I didn't know the rules to write down the correct answers. My eyes grew wider, my head grew ever more confused and then it seemed to just shut down.
The school were really good about this and we found a solution where I dropped into a lower class with a level of french more suited to my experience. This class started this week, as more students are slowly arriving, and I am finding it easier to understand while still learning lots of french. The school is also meant to be holding free conversation classes, but again due to the limited number of students this hasn't started yet. Hopefully next week, and I am looking forward to these sessions which will enable me to converse in and listen more to the french language.
And hopefully next time when someone says something to me in a format I haven't heard before, I may just have enough knowledge to understand, respond appropriately, and maybe even continue the conversation somewhat.
But I won't get too far ahead of myself just yet. Hopefully far enough to stay out of the way of moving traffic though.