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!"


Anonymous said...

Luke is in total awe of your efforts to absorb and use the French language. It probably makes it more difficult for you because you do not live there year-round, so you can't "totally immerse" yourselves in French!

On another subject, how is Fergus enjoying being a "cheeky monkey"? Do you suppose his new identity will make him more attractive to all those sexy French poodles? HA!

Anonymous said...

Gareth makes me feel good. Even though I have been studying French since the sixth grade, that would be about 50 years, I am still having trouble with gender and tense. I am able to use the past tense, the present, the future and sometimes I surprise myself and throw in a little subjunctive but I'll be damned if I can get the gender and when writing I always forget to make everything agree, at least until I have sent the letter. I have decided that I love the French accent, especially when they say something like, "the moon, she is so beautiful tonight" that I am not allowing myself to worry about how I sound if I can communicate. That freed me up last time we were there to speak much more and to enjoy speaking and made it possible to listen instead of trying to plan what I would say next. Keep working at it, it stalls Alzheimers. Love, Leslie

Anonymous said...

PS the best way to do the future tense without having to think too much is to use aller and the infinitive. I am going to go=Je vais aller. I am going to sing= Je vais chanter. I am going to the bar= Je vais aller au cafe. They never taught that to us in school, it was probably too informal, I get a lot of sentence construction from the French movies. They always say moi, je vais au .... or moi, je l'aime.... or lui, li aime... etc. Watch the movies in French whenever you can, I've learned a lot of slang and les mots au courrant. Leslie