Don’t worry, I haven’t actually started exercising or anything.
HOWEVER, the most common questions I get from my friends and family are related to that ever-present elephant in the room – the language barrier. Coming from a non language degree background it’s even a bit of a mystery to me as to how I’m doing this, but seriously why not just throw yourself in at the deep end from time to time? There’s no better way to be learn a language than to be immersed in it and I’d been learning (/attempting to learn) French for such a long time that coming on a year abroad was really a last ditch attempt at being able to communicate in the language.
Even from the beginning of my lectures I understood way more than I ever thought that I would just because of the context of everything. I’m now at the point where I understand pretty much everything in my classes exclusively for Erasmus students and the majority in my other classes. I’ve also changed my laptop language into french so that I can just type whatever the words sound like and then spellcheck does the rest – this has been my saviour on many many occasions.
Talking of my own accord is still another matter though. I have improved immeasurably, but I am still traumatised by the time I bought my french rail card, told the man I was born in 1913 and stuttered through the rest of my details. The kindly man that was serving me gave me a leaflet as I was leaving, laughed and said ‘you’ll have to read that in french though’. Pretty disheartening, but that was honestly the worst experience I’ve had so far. Most locals LOVE when you speak the language and are more than willing to forgive your errors because you’re trying.
On that note, I had a minor disaster a few weeks ago on my way back to Rouen after les vacances de Toussaint. It was a Sunday night, I’d been travelling for ten hours and my train was so late that I missed the last night bus. I ran to catch it anyway but failed and ended up at the back of the Taxi queue. An hour later and only 3 of the people in the queue had managed to get a taxi. At that point, I was on the verge of freezing so I managed to talk my way into a hotel that had been closed for the night, get a taxi number myself and get one ordered. Despite initial success, the taxi didn’t actually turn up but I rang another one before my phone died and the people in front of me in the taxi queue invited me to join their taxi when it arrived. 3am and I was finally homeward bound but my other travel pals were from the english taught business school and didn’t speak French, so the taxi driver and I sat in the front chatting away and he turned the heating on for me and life was good.
One of the big landmarks is the first time you find yourself able to laugh at a joke someone else has made or, even better, you say something funny yourself and IT MAKES SENSE. I’ve said it a few times but apparently you take on a different personality in another language and until you can communicate properly it kind of feels like your new personality is that of the village idiot. It’s just so nice to have a bit of craic in another language. However, please note that all optimism is provisional and subject to review after I have been examined in all 9 of my modules.
In other news…
•I was very naughty last term and went to the UK twice in the space of a month – sue me.
•I’ve also visited Mont Saint Michel (which is like a real life French Hogwarts), Rennes and Paris. Rennes seemed like a really cool city to live in and Paris is the centre of the universe.
•Exams are fast approaching but so is CHRISTMAS and everything is festive. I’ve also been able to book flights home since I got my exam dates, but we will NOT talk about the price.
•I am currently apartment hunting for second semester. Wish me luck – I need it.
•There may just possible be a chance of french friends on the horizon after a social I’m going on this week, but I won’t jinx it.
Until next time when I’ll probably be discussing an odd mixture of how stressed I am and how much I LOVE CHRISTMAS ET PERE NOEL!!!