French in France

Another week, another essay, also another extremely busy week at work and gladness that there was no quiz this week. This time, we wrote about our experiences trying to learn another language. I compared my two years of high school French to my several weeks in France:

I took a long trip to Europe a few years ago (several months) and spent a lot of that time in France. During my time there, I took several classes in French in order to better learn the language. One of those classes was in a countryside town in the south where groups of people from different parts of Europe came to learn French (Spain, Ireland, Switzerland and Denmark, from what I recall). One thing that struck me at the time was that different groups of people had different difficulties in pronouncing French words. This was so common that the school purposely broke up the class into groups based on their native language. Americans got special instruction on certain phonemes, the Danish had special instruction on others, etc. This experience also highlighted for me just how little I learned during my two years of high school French - which I passed with decent grades (B’s or A’s, can’t remember exactly). From what I recall, it was taken as a given that nobody was going to learn how to actually speak French from the class. It was almost a joke. Going to class everyday was an exercise in making funny sounds that didn’t mean anything and memorizing information for quizzes and tests that you would immediately forget afterwards. Looking back, I think of it now as more of a waste of time. I learned a lot more when I was in France because I was surrounded by the language everyday, in both spoken and written forms. It got to the point where I got tired of speaking it and it was a relief to speak English (usually with the Irish kids, so I wouldn’t say it was exactly what we in America would call “English” either, but it was close enough). However, I learned it pretty well for the relatively short time I was there.