Bonjour mes amis!
In order to feel more competent using my schoolgirl French when we go to France in May, I decided I would take some conversational French lessons. But where to look for a good tutor? I was going to contact Alliance Francaise but as luck would have it, I was flicking through the Titirangi Group Facebook page and what did I find? – a young local French woman (Marie), well qualified to teach, who was seeking pupils – perfect!! Not only that, she comes to my home, which with my busy lifestyle, is very convenient.
My first lesson was three weeks ago, and I admit I felt rather anxious about it. But Marie immediately made me feel at ease and we established a rapport quite quickly. She asked me what I love about France so much, and I really couldn’t explain it – it is simply that I feel comfortable there – that the places, the culture and the people intrigue and attract me. Thinking about it afterwards, I should have said that my first and only French teacher, Linda Gill, who taught me at Auckland Girls’ Grammar School in the 1960’s, had inspired in me, a love of things French. She was a brilliant teacher – passionate, exacting and so knowledgeable, so that I have always remembered her and her lessons with great fondness. I was not surprised to find that she has become a respected author and art critic.
While I do not feel confident, strangely, I do not feel foolish attempting to speak in French, and I am thoroughly enjoying Marie’s approach. We converse in English and French, and I have been surprised at how much I can understand when Marie is in French mode. I can see that my understanding will improve with only one lesson a week, but two would be ideal. Finances and time prevent me from doing this however.
The lessons are based on practicality – what will be useful to me as I travel through France. Letters and numbers were our first focus and I really had to put my thinking cap on. Pronunciation of the French alphabet is quite different, and I realised I had no recollection of how to do this, but it is an important skill. What if we are marooned in little French town, where little English is spoken and we need directions to a certain place? If I can spell it out, that may be very useful. Marie has a nice little game (like Scrabble) that we can play to improve my skills in this area.
As for telling the time – I discovered I needed a lot of help with this skill, and was at a loss when required to use the twenty-four hour clock method… but I am really benefiting from having to relearn numbers and find myself trying to think in French when noting times in my own daily routines.
Marie has set little tasks for me too, like researching aspects of her hometown Toulouse (which I really want to visit now!) This week, I am focusing on how to make telephone reservations at a restaurant, and how to decipher the menus! I also have to tell a joke in French – that will be fun- I am hopeless at telling them in English, let alone French, but thankfully, she has provided the script for me.
So there we have it, my first French lessons since the sixties! I have another three months to brush up and I can feel that it is going to be very worthwhile.