By the start of the third day of courses, I definitely detect a bit of improvement in my skill. I wouldn’t have said as much the night before, though. I think a lot of it gelled into place while I was sleeping. As previously mentioned, I had a lot of difficulty sleeping Monday night, and while the same was true on Tuesday night, it was wasn’t as severe. I found myself trying to think of nothing, yet inevitably, I’d think of something in French and from there, see if I could express the same sentiment differently.
Could it be that I became addicted to la grammaire Française? In an effort to insure I actually slept through the night on Wednesday, I made my way to the village pharmacy and acquired a sleep aid.
The rest of Wednesday, aka: day three, was focused on more verb conjugations and pronouns, equipping me to speak about the past and the future a bit more effectively. Before dinner, one of the instructors gave a presentation about a Francophone organization. I took the sleep remedy, but sadly, I don’t think it helped at all. I wasn’t any more sleepy an hour after taking it than I was before.
Day four, Thursday, was full of more grammar; verb conjugations, prepositions, and passive structures. For the second day in a row, the first period was spent presenting the prior afternoon’s writing exercise. I spent most of the day feeling much as I had on day two… as though I hadn’t learned anything. I
think this is likely normal, as it takes more than a week to develop a command of a language; although, I’ve learned a lot. After classes, I opted for some quiet time and a bit of what I hoped would be good comprehension practice in the form of French television. What I got were two episodes of Dawson’s Creek (Les Francaises l’appellent Dawson). I’m not sure it helped.
In the evening, we were joined by a local singer for a dinner of beef stew and cous cous, followed by cheeses (mais oui!) and a brilliant chocolate mousse, for which Marie kindly shared the recipe. Our visitor, Lulu, taught us about the barbary organ, which runs off of cartons. After dinner, I headed out to the yard with another student and practiced speaking.
As this is the first time I’ve ever really not been able to express myself to anyone, it is an interesting experience. On vacation, I’m not as bothered, as I’m not getting to know the people I meet in passing. It’s such a small group, and as I like everyone here, it’s frustrating to be so short on words… especially when I’m generally a shy person who hides it by trying to make people laugh.
The final day of study, Friday, was much the same. Presentations, Grammar work, etc. The daily evalulation discussion was a bit different, as this one was targeted more towards one’s next steps and where one needs to improve next.
We had a small graduation of sorts, and those of us leaving were given a bottle of wine in recognition of our achievement.
In the evening, we went to a local vineyard (of Alain and Nicole Prunet) for a bit of dégustation du vin, after which we all went for dinner together in Chateauneuf de Pape. During dinner, we all caved in a bit, and used our other languages… English, German, Lithuanian while still using our French, the only language we all shared. While it was cheating, I am thankful for the opportunity to better understand my fellow students. These are people whom I’ve come to get to know a bit over the course ofthe last week, as inevitably, in a language class, we use our words to express optinions and to communicate with one another. I’ve increasingly felt a bit sad that I haven’t been able to express myself to them as well as I would like, but I’ve so enjoyed the opportunity to try. I wish we could all have another week together.
So, what’s the verdict?
This has been one of the best things I have ever done. I overcame my fear of grammar, I met some lovely people, and in every respect, I’m a better person for it. I realize that may sound a bit excessive, but it is easy to be insensitive when people don’t share your language. This was a good reminder of how limiting it can be to have enough words, but not necessarily the perfect words, when you’ve become so accustomed to always having them.
I definitely want to come back for another week!