Well, today I started my eagerly anticipated French lessons. These are free lessons that the government sponsors to help new residents adapt.
Back on the 21st of December I drove to nearby Le Blanc, just 20 kilometers away to meet the teacher and take a proficiency test. (The same Le Blanc where we whisked my neighbor when he amputated his finger--which, by the way, he did eventually lose, after returning home to resume cutting stone mere hours after getting back from the hospital. He would have returned to work immediately if he hadn't been so busy picking barrows of produce and buckets of walnuts to give me as a thank you.)
Capucine Roy, the teacher, was there to greet us; we filled out a few forms and, because I wasn't sure if I was good enough for intermediate, I took the 'debutante' test as well as the intermediate.
Capucine put me in intermediate with the suggestion that if I felt I was over my head, I could always default to the deb class. I said I needed it to be difficult, I needed the struggle, as I live here now. I don't want to waste time coasting on what might be a good bit of knowledge I already possess.
Well, today I went, reasonably confident I could hold my own. I found myself in a small class of eight students: 3 couples, another woman and myself. Everyone's British except me. And everyone's had several years of recent French lessons except me. Uh, oh....
We started with impromptu introductions. The man on my right went first. I sat there trying not to panic at his stream of French that went on for at least five full minutes. I was so busy trying to piece together a script for myself I was unable to catch more than a few key phrases in his entire monologue. How much of a workout in class would I be giving that key phrase, "Je ne comprend pas?"
Naturally, due to my state of panic, Capucine chose me to speak next. I muddled through and it wasn't too excruciating, stumbling over the history of where I've been the past few years and how I came to live in France.
For the first half hour of the class, I was almost completely lost. But then things started to click. A glimmer of comprehension. I began catching a few more words. I began getting the gist of most of what she was saying. By the time 90 minutes had passed, I felt reasonably in sync. At the end of the two hours I was both calm and excited.
Now, mind you, to imply that I've got things under control would be deceit at best, delusional at the very least. I don't. But I'm determined to plug away. At least I didn't run screaming out of the room tearing my hair out in despair. (I reserve the right, however, to do that at a future date.)
And all that time, Tilly sat in her kennel at my feet, unbeknownst to the teacher until the very end. Hmm, I wonder how much of her native language she's going to to pick up?
Maybe Tilly can teach this old dog some new tricks.
SPEAK! Et pourquoi pas???