Sunday, April 20, 2008

"So are you fluent in French yet?"

Last night we had my mom's family over for the first Seder, and of course everyone wants to get the details on what I'm doing in France. Do I like it, do the kids behave, wow it's so cool that you travel so much! And inevitably that question...

"So are you fluent in French yet?"

And I don't really know what to say. I suppose that to live in a foreign country and get through it with not too many misunderstandings or big language-related problems you have to have some level of fluency. I do speak French all day, every day. But I know I'm not really fluent. There are multiple words every day that I either want to use and can't because I don't know them or don't understand when someone else says them, I trip over my words, I can't communicate the way I want to because I don't have the vocab, and of course I still have problems conjugating verbs correctly! I'm going to kick the next kid who tells me etre is easier to conjugate than be. I'm embarrassed that I can't speak French well, sometimes saying things along the lines of "It will already arrived when they left." I can't tell if I'm being too hard on myself or not because I'm just a bad judge of my own skills.

I've started speaking much more quickly in French as I've gotten used to using it. For a while I thought maybe that was messing me up so I tried speaking more slowly, but that just made it worse because I was thinking about it more. The words flow more easily when I'm trying to speak the same way that I do in English. And I know I've improved since I arrived in France. I've learned new words, my comprehension is pretty good, it's a lot easier to pull old words out of the depths of my French vocab cortex. In general it's just easier to speak.

I guess fluency comes with time and of course with study. I should be studying vocab and irregular conjugations, but that's kind of annoying. On the other hand it's more annoying to not be able to participate fully in life in France because I don't understand what's going on or can't adequately participate in conversations.

Vocabulary lists here I come....

1 comment:

shannon said...

I ask myself things like that everyday. And more times than not, I think my French just sucks.... like I have barely improved. The two friends I've seen from back home say that is has improved as does my host mom, but I can't believe them. I think that I should have made more progress. And here I am, right on the brink of making some real strides, and it's time for me to go home. Not cool. I guess the real test of my French will be when I meet up with my former prof from college. Although I'm sure I'll be so nervous and stuff that I'll just make myself a blabbering mess who can't speak French. Hmm... but on the other hand, when I was in Ireland, I had such a hard time switching to complete English. I kept wanting to say things in French or I forgot the English words sometimes.