Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Parlez-vous francais?

I always enjoyed French classes in high school. I took French right to grade 12, and then when I registered for university, I decided to take first year French, too. First year French turned into second year French plus a French lit course, which eventually turned into a full blown major. Grammar, translation, phonetics, composition, linguistics, history, liturature, civilization... you name it, I probably did courses in it.

I decided on my major in part because I enjoyed learning a language, but in part because it afforded me lots of variety in the types of courses I took. I loved my classical studies courses, my religious studies courses, my anthopology, astromomy, chemistry, and math courses (ok, no, actually, I hated the math courses), but I didn't want to take as many of any of those as was required for a major. But French? Within the French major, there was so much variety. So I went for it, and filled the rest of my degree with as many different courses as I could.

After I graduated, I decided to go to Chicoutimi, Quebec to do a five week language program. Hey, why not? Becuase of Canada's 2-official-lanuages policy, the government has all kinds of programs to encourage people to learn either English or French. Like the summer language bursary program. Five weeks of language school, staying with a host family, all classes, activities, accomodation and meals paid for. By the government. Yee haw! What I lacked in oral skills in French from uni (that's one area in which my university really sucked!), I picked up in Quebec.

Now that's not to say I'm fluent. No way, no how. But I can carry on a conversation all right. Except when I stumble over not knowing the right words or make terrrible grammar mistakes. Eep! It's all fine and dandy when I'm teaching in French (the kids don't usually notice my mistakes, cause they're not quite there yet, thankfull!) or when I'm talking to other anglophones in French.

But talking to francophones? Yikes. I hate it. I bumble and stumble and mumble and jumble and can't find the right word and make super dumb I-totally-know-how-to-say-that-but-it-just-didn't-come-out-right type mistakes. And all allong in my head, I'm thinking, French is their first language. They're totally noticing all the mistakes I'm making. They must wonder how I'm even able to teach in French without butchering it, or totally messing the kids up... The first year I taught at my school, I didn't teach the French immersion kids, so some of the French teachers didn't even know I spoke the language till I got their kids the next year!

That's totally ridiculous, I know. I think it's a phobia or something. I really need to get over it!


SlushTurtle said...

I remember very little French from school. L took Spanish, so when we go to France we have to rely on my poor skills. I'm so shy about speaking it, I tell L what to say and he bumbles through. What a nice husband! I really need to get over it too! I need to work on some Spanish so I can teach little Julio when he gets older!

Hillary said...

ah, if only I had the problem of what to do when I go to France! ;) Tee hee!

Buffy said...

I can totally relate to this anglophone v. francophone thing.

I took six years of French in the states. Moved to Europe and ended up a with a French housemate who laughed every time I opened my mouth in her language.

Lesson learned: WV French is not French French.

I read it when I can but leave the speaking it to someone who can roll a vowel the right way.