“Welcome to French”

September 2, 2009

What was meant as a rather snarky comment from a young Frenchman passing by and commenting on my conversation (in English) with a few other JYF students is actually a perfect description of my life in Tours.

“Welcome to French” is probably a fairly accurate description of what I sound like when attempting to speak my non-native language. However my friends from the program, host mother, professors, and even strangers on the street are infinitely patient with me, correcting and offering up possible word choices, so that I can better express what I could easily say in English. However, there is also something really satisfying about coming home at the end of a long day and realizing that I made it one step further.

But sometimes I just don’t want to go further! Yesterday morning I had class from 9:45-12:45, which is 2 hours of grammar review, and then 1 hour of conversation (oral expression). In addition, all students in the SBC program had to sign a pledge that we would only speak French when inside l’Institut, which means that the French continues before, between, and after classes as well! On the street it’s usually a mix-Franglais is common, and phrases like “I have to cherche mon cahier for tomorrow” are commonplace-sometimes on purpose, but usually on accident! And of course there are lectures and concerts offered through SBC as well-though listening to a lecture lasting an hour and a half in very fast French is not easy!

There is also one other problem. How do you pronounce American words? For instance, the name of your state when somebody asks where you’re from? Yesterday Madame invited guests to dinner unexpectedly-which meant more French practice and more stress since we had never met them before.  The guests turned out to be one of Madame’s daughters, and also her niece, an artist who is here for an exhibition in a local gallery. They asked Jane where she was from and where she went to school, and she answered “Connecticut” in an American accent. Both the daughter and niece absolutely erupted into laughter, and they asked her to say it again, after which they gleefully imitated her. In France they pronounce it “Connect-y-coot” (with the “c” like in “connect” ), and they’d never heard it pronounced by an American before. But what’s the correct way to pronounce those words? As soon as I open my mouth everyone knows that I’m American, and one would never hear a French person refer to “PariS-only “Pair-y”, even when speaking English. Je ne sais pas. I don’t really think that there is a correct answer to that question.

So in conclusion, I have been welcomed, warmly, “to French”, though the transition has not been easy. Mais c’est la vie. Right now, I have to go back to French class!

A Bientot!

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3 Responses to ““Welcome to French””

  1. Laura Trudeau said

    This is Grandma,,,surprise! Just visiting on my way back to Florida. I must say that you have my wonderful writing ability. This is my email: sgloria21@yahoo.com. Your Mom is going to give me instructions on getting on to your blogg. I am so excited about your experiences. Love you to pieces. Grandma.

  2. Dad said

    Silly young Frenchman, Walks by beautiful American girl and squanders his opportunity to impress her…

  3. Alex Vlasic said

    I totally get the pronunciation conundrum. In France you must “franciser” all words. So Brad Pitt becomes Brahd Peet. If you dont try to pronounce it the French way, they wont understand you. I guess that’s just how the French work!

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