When I boarded my plane to Paris 8 years ago to begin my 10 months of studying abroad, I had only a handful of French words and phrases under my belt. I knew the days of the week and the words for bank, bathroom, and bread, and I think I could conjugate ‘etre’ and ‘avoir’, but that was the extent of it. I spent the entire flight from California flipping through my French/English dictionary, rehearsing the conversation I expected to have with my new landlords, piecing together questions like ‘when is the rent due?’ and ‘where do I take the trash out?’. Thankfully, I had a couple of French-speaking classmates that were already in Paris and offered to help me through this first true encounter with the language barrier, but once my check-in was squared away and they headed back to their place, I remember sitting alone in my tiny little studio apartment and thinking, Oh. Mon. Dieu. I was in way over my head. Especially considering I had to spend the first couple of weeks in Paris running from office to office to get my student visa, which I needed to set up my French bank account, which I needed to set up my French phone line, which I needed to be able to call Shane and hear the sweet sound of English being spoken. I would wait in lines with my French dictionary clutched in my sweaty hands, praying that they wouldn’t ask me anything that would force me to deviate from my carefully prepared script of questions and responses. That said, this crash course in the French language forced me to become proficient within my first few months there. And while I never realized my dream of truly speaking as the French do, I learned how to hold my own. And it felt magnifique.

With our trip to France just a few days away, I’ve dusted off the old French workbook and have been spending my evenings making use of my Rosetta Stone access pass. And holy cow, I’ve fallen way off the wagon. I’m slowly picking things back up, but there have been bouts of shouting with the computer during the speaking portion of the lessons, when the computer rejects my pronunciation and I yell ‘Ecoutez-moi! That’s what I said!’. Yes, I certainly won’t be chatting it up with any Frenchies in their native tongue while on our trip, but I do intend to order our carafe of wine in French. And maybe catch a snippet or two of conversation from the table next to us. And I’ve made certain that I can say ‘Un pain au chocolat, s’il vous plait’ flawlessly. What else does one need, really?

One Comment

  1. Mesa Mendoza says:

    You’re going to France?! You’re so lucky. I’ve never been out of Wisconsin. I hoope you have a great time and good luck on your french speaking skills!