On Monday I attended my third conversational class. In addition to nine hours per week of traditional class, I’ve added a couple of hours of conversational classes in an attempt to actually try to learn more about speaking French. Monday’s class was terrible. The teacher is a French lady in her sixties or seventies and I’m not really sure why she signed up to teach this class. My initial thought is that she wants a platform from which she can offend people from other countries. If this is her goal, she’s succeeded. If her goal is inline with the class objectives of helping people speak French, she’s failed. For one hour we basically listened to her talk about how all educational systems from other countries are inferior to the French system. At first I just wondered if it was my poor grasp of the language but as the class continued it became clear that my language is adequate enough to to comprehend the fact that she was offending nearly all the students. She was also a bit miffed to hear that students studying medicine in the US spend more time in school than French students. She then proceeded to talk about all of the “inferior” doctors who are coming to France from Romania and Poland. Well, this did not go over well with a friend of mine from Poland who proceeded to get in a bit of an argument with the professeur about the cost of school. The professeur started talking about how expensive it was to go to a private university in Paris. My friend’s husband had just graduated from a leading private university here and she knew that tuition was reasonable. The professeur would have none of it. I kept my mouth shut about tuition costs in the US because they would boggle the minds of all the students here. Madame then proceeded to talk about how law schools in France are more difficult than law schools elsewhere. And this offended another friend who is from Egypt, and who happens to be a lawyer. By the end of class I was having to stifle giggles because it was apparent to everyone but the teacher that she had dug herself into a hole. Not only were we, the students, hardly able to get a word in edgewise, but she then looked around the class and asked us what we had been able to understand. Most of the students had understood a good bit but when she got to me me, she just pointed and said “Alors, vous ne comprenez rien.” In case you have trouble with that, here’s the translation: “Ack! You don’t understand anything.” To which I simply nodded because while I could comprehend a bit of what she was saying, I really didn’t understand what on earth was happening. “Alours” is right!
Today I took the opportunity to transfer out of that class and sign up for another. Here’s to hoping we talk about something other than educational systems and focus more on conversational skills I may actually use on a daily basis.
My other conversational class is fantastic. I am really enjoying it. We’re reading The Little Prince and discussing things like what we did over the weekend. Il est trés bon! The teacher is a lovely elderly Frenchman and he asks great questions and I’ve learned some valuable things already. For instance, guess what it costs to have a locksmith come to your home in the event you’ve locked ourself out of your apartment? 500€! Yes, that’s around $700. If I could find a way to attach my keys to my person, I would do that. I am really enjoying this class but a lot is still going over my head. For instance he was asking me something about Thanksgiving and saying “soldes” a lot. For some reason all I could think of was soldiers and I was trying to make the connection between Thanksgiving and soldiers. I took my usual approach when faced with a befuddling discussion and simply smiled and nodded. And then it hit me that he was actually talking about the Black Friday sales. Ei yi yi! At that point I was able to string enough words together to explain to the people who had no idea what Black Friday was that it’s when a lot of people do their Christmas shopping and that it’s crazy.
And so, the adventure of learning another language continues. It’s fun, it makes me talk a whole lot less, and it is now effecting what I say in English! My conversations with fellow classmates (who all know English!) is that strange hybrid tongue, Franglish. Well, I am now off to study my vocabulary.