Remember back when I said I was going to take a conversational French class? Well, today I started it, and although we had a couple of bumps, I think dear old French teacher and I are going to get along fine.
First, let me describe my entrance to the class, because it was, well, unceremonious. I knew this place was far out in boonieville, so I took a cab. My problem was I ended up taking the cab later than I should have, so I arrived late for class. This was not the way I wanted to start off. The last thing I want to do is arrive in class late, because being late sucks, and it tends to send the teacher into unnecessary fits because she has no time to breathe and process this whole blink thing that seems to be so hard to do before class starts. But, sucks to be me, that’s what happened.
I walked into the building with the cab-driver because he was all cute and wanted to make sure I got where I was going. I asked the lady at the front desk where the French class was and she said “Hear that photocopier? That’s your teacher photocopying stuff. Go find her, she’ll show you where class is.”
So off I went with a big grin, wondering how this meet and greet was going to go. The poor woman just about died. “You’re in my class? I was not warned!” she sputtered in French. I reminded her that I spoke to her in the winter, and since I’d already missed too much, I came to this class. She breathed, calmed herself, and muttered something about not being prepared. I told her to relax and we’ll learn as we go. AT least I tried to say that. What came out was a lot of sputtering, breathing, sighing, frustrated attempts to find the words. This, boys and girls, is why I’m in this damn class.
After she showed me to a chair, and everyone ooed at the sight of my four-legged birthday beast of a Trixter, she told me how many students there were. It’s a pretty cute class, I think there are only 5 of us. I thought she said there were five others, but when I think back, I cannot remember any more than four people besides me.
Just as I was starting to settle, in charged the sleepy woman I talked about before. She was convinced that I had not paid. I told her I had, and I told her who I had spoken to. The French teacher looked at her and said “It’s ok, we’re going to give it a try.” Damn right we are, I paid the fee. Were they going to escort me out if the teacher said she didn’t want to teach me?
It’s really weird when you’re trying to skip quickly between English and French and you’re out of practice. Once you start trying to speak French, it’s hard to stop on a dime and go back to English. As soon as sleepy introduced herself, I turned around and started speaking French to her and then went “Oops sorry, you probably don’t speak French.” It’s also really hard to give English commands to Trixie while talking French. It’s a brain-twister!
I think I’m putting the teacher at ease though. I already showed her my good memory and the fact that I can speak French, it’s just rusty and dusty. I felt bad for the poor guy beside me though. We did an exercise where the teacher read an article to us and then We teamed up and we had to answer questions. He had to read stuff to me so we could work together, and I kept answering the questions before he could find the answer. The teacher was surprised I think. I attempted to tell her that learning to listen well was a necessity, because sometimes in school, the teacher would make up exercises on the fly and I wouldn’t have a copy. I think I succeeded in conveying that message. God my French sucks. I can speak simple sentences, but as soon as the message gets complicated, my mind fills with thoughts and I can’t sift through them to find the French words.
It’s going to be a neat experience. This lady’s first language is French, so she doesn’t have all the English words at her disposal that we do. So, sometimes she can’t just give us the English equivalent for a French word. She has to explain it in other ways. Or, it can go the other way. She asked us if a certain word was masculine or feminine. Someone wanted to know what that word was and asked if it meant string. The teacher said “What is string?” Would you believe that’s hard to explain? I couldn’t think of how to explain it! I kept thinking of draw-strings in your pants, but that’s not accurate. Then I thought of cords, but I didn’t want her to think electrical cords. Then I thought about things pulled by strings, but my French is so bad, I was afraid she’d think the thing being pulled by the string was the string. Aa language! How complicated it is!
I was so nervous going in. I didn’t know where I would fall on the spectrum of French-speaking ability. I fall in a pretty good spot. There is one guy who’s totally whooping my ass who also went to the Summer Language Bursary Program that I went to in 2001, only he went more recently and it shows. And there are others who have great vocabulary, but…ils ont une tray mo vez ak sont. Hopefully someone will get that. That was my attempt to phonetically spell what their accent sounded like if they said they had a bad accent in French. Anyway, I’m right smack in the middle, so I can relax and I’m not going to be laughed at by a mass of folk far superior to me in the French department.
One thing that I found to be slightly chuckle-worthy was the discovery that one of the students must wear hearing aids, and she was sitting furthest from the teacher! Now, wouldn’t hearing difficulties be a bigger impediment to a conversational French class than blindness? Just a thought. And why isn’t she sitting closest so she can hear best?
I think things are going to go well. The teacher says she’s going to email me the sheets she hands out. We’ll see if she actually does it. I’ve found someone who’s willing to drive me to class so I don’t have to pay 20 bucks a shot in cab fare, so rockin’. the teacher was actually kind of cool about this. I asked if there was anyone who lived in my area of town who wouldn’t mind meeting me somewhere and we could come together. A guy agreed to drive me, and the teacher said, “Do you trust him?” That’s a fair question. I think I do. He seems like a nice guy, and if anything goes wrong, he’s sort of screwed because I can get his whole name from the teacher, not like I’d have to, but you know what I’m saying. He’s not very anonymous.
So, hopefully by the end of the course, I’ll be able to speak French a hell of a lot better than I can right now. No matter what the outcome, it should be a fun ride.