Friday, August 8, 2008
Real Immersion French
We meet with Sophie once a week for an hour and a half. During that very stressful time for us (and no doubt boring time for her), we mostly speak French. Obviously, this translates to limited conversations. When we are in a bind, or on the verge of breaking, she helps us out. Sophie instructs us to "go out and practice", and asks if we speak to each other at home in French. I think she already knows the answer.
We were having lunch at Le Rendez-vous (the "bar") the other day, and happened to ask Garreth about how his handle on French was coming along. He is Mareck and Shirley's son, and came over to help open the bar up last March. Garreth said he only had a smattering of French at his command, and his position waiting on tables and pouring drinks might just require a broader understanding. Mareck's mother is from northern France, so he grew up speaking household French. He admits he needed to acquire some "street French" for running the bar.
At that time, nobody knew how extensive the lunch menu would expand, or how the local French population would patronize the establishment. I hope that the owners are well-pleased with their outcome. But it meant that as the number of patrons increased, so must Garreth's French. Questions are asked about the menu, i.e., "how is this cooked?", "can I substitute ...?", etc. Also, there are lull times, when patrons just like to shoot the shit with the bartender, and the conversations we are having with Sophie just wouldn't cut it.
Garreth's learning curve must have been mighty steep. Since March, he said his usage and retention of French has escalated dramatically. Being thrown to the dogs, so-to-speak, has it's advantage. But it takes its toll. He said that before coming on his shift, he has to psyche himself up. because he knows that while the physical aspect of the job might now be routine, the psycological part isn't there yet. Come September, when things slow down, Garreth said that he plans to take some French lessons to get over the "Wall" he's hit. He made all this rapid progress, but feels inadequate when it comes to correct gender, tense, word order. We looked at him and expressed admiringly, "What we wouldn't do just to get to the Wall!"