July 3, 2008

pardon my french

Posted in paris tagged , , , at 10:02 am by Malia Yoshioka

no, really. pardon my french, literally. i know it leaves much to be desired. but in my defense, it’s been 11 years since i’ve studied french in madame hondo’s class at good old maui high school.

when i came to paris last, in 1998, i remember that at least attempting a little bit of French would allow me some leeway when trying to buy a bottle of nutella, ask directions, or to order in a café. the French are very proud of their language, it’s true. and i’m sure that i was butchering it most of the time, but as long as i gave it a try, for the most part people were pretty helpful and would often take pity on me and respond to me in English.

i don’t know what’s changed in the past ten years, but my attempts at French this time around have not been as well received as they were when i was here last. i seem to get a lot more blank looks these days when attempting to converse with native speakers. and those who took pity on me and spoke back in broken English seem to have fled the city entirely.

but i will not be deterred! one of the great thing about taking a summer workshop at the paris american academy is the chance to take french lessons in addition to our regular creative writing program. this morning we took our placement tests to determine whether we’d get placed in “survival french – levels 1 & 2” or the “intermediate/advanced group – levels 3 & 4”.

we were each given a written exam with all kinds of questions which had us attempting to conjugate french verbs, determine the proper verb tense or pronoun, fill in the blanks to answer various questions in french, and to write an essay on what we planned to do while on our vacation in paris. (drink lots of wine and eat lots of cheese? errrrr, i mean… try to learn enough french to get these questions right??)

even worse was the dreaded oral exam. our teacher would ask us conversational questions where we’d have to state our name, where we were from, how long we’d studied French and where, and what kind of work we did. i could understand most of the questions asked, yet of course it was far more difficult to formulate correct responses. i think i got away easy by using a lot of “comment dit-on _____ en francais?” (how do you say ______ in french?) when i didn’t know how to answer properly, so at least it would show that i understood what she was asking. who remembers irregular verb conjugation anyway??

luckily, when the results went up, i had placed into french 3, which i think is the intermediate level. so maybe it’s not as bad as i thought. hopefully i can keep up with the rest of the class and brush up on the things i’ve forgotten. my goal is that by the end of class, i won’t be getting so many blank looks when attempting to use my French out on the streets of paris. i guess there’s no better place to be learning such a romantic language than here in the city of lights…

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1 Comment »

  1. Mom said,

    Tres bon, mon cherie:)…Je te adore vous…la mer…..(what’s french for lol???:)


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