Tuesday, January 30, 2007

So I've sat and I've watched an ice-age thaw

Yesterday I enrolled in a French language course.

After many years of thinking I'd like to learn a language, and at least a couple of years thinking I'd like it to be French, then at least the last few months talking about it... I actually did it.

One of the reasons I haven't done it sooner is that I'm afraid I might not have enough of a reason or motivation to learn a language. It's a big, difficult undertaking. I don't have specific plans to live in a French-speaking country. I don't have French-speaking family members.

Also, you can't learn a language without trying to speak it and making mistakes. I am a big coward and don't want to make a fool of myself. I know that as I progress, I will learn faster if I take every opportunity to talk with people I come across who know French, and I am afraid that I just won't do it. I think of my young cousin in Poland who was studying English at school but refused to even try to speak with me. Even though it would have been great, since almost no one else in the family had any English, I completely understood her embarassment and shyness.

And, it's four hours a week plus study time. That's a big commitment. I haven't been a student since 1997, and although I liked uni, I have never really missed that feeling of always having assignments and study I could be doing. But here's the funniest part. Because I don't want to give up several evening committments, I've chosen the Saturday MORNING 9am to 1pm class. That's ONE FOUR-HOUR CLASS, people!

And I am just not a morning person.

Almost all of my uni courses involved a lot of essay and report writing, even the exams. I never did much that you have to just flat-out memorise. I never really learned how to sit and study for extended periods. For exams I used to just go through my notes a couple of times, and hope that I would be able to handle all the questions based on my understanding of the content we had covered, rather than trying to memorise a lot of specific facts.

So the thought of vocabulary lists has me feeling a bit clammy. A friend described the use of flash cards and that made me feel better instantly. Sounds like a good, practical method.

I know I've taken better photos, but the one above was shot from the window of my charming hotel room, on the morning of my one-night-only trip to Paris (October 2004). It sits in a little frame right next to my desk at work. That trip was magical and I know I'll be back. That's motivating.


Taphophile said...

To see Paris again is motivation enough. Bon chance. :)

Djaughan Zelmonde said...

Olma - It's TERRIFIC!!!!!! The imagined is often worse than reality and I'm sure once the classes have started, that you'll get into it! Saturday mornings will be made easier with other people there, and - as you say - albeit not being a morning person, it's better not to have to give up a whole bunch of other stuff. When I was studying Latin at uni, I found lists stuck on the back of the loo door really worked!!!!! Au revoir, mon ami!

bertie said...


I'm sure there are some French podcasts out there for you to listen to on your iPod, to help supplement your immersion in the French language.

And when you get back to Paris, have a croissant for me :) (Well, everyone else was Francais-ing it up, and most of what I know is about small mice - petit souris - and big houses - grand maisons. That's what passes for relevance in primary school French!).

Bells said...

I found flashcards really useful for all three languages I studied! Russian. German. Japanese. The fact that I don't speak them anymore should not deter you from trying flash cards!

And here's another idea, knit and listen to French podcasts, or language tapes. It'll be associated then with something really pleasant.

zjcroft said...

oh well done, you'll be a terrific student..and you can always practice your french on me, my highschool year 9/10 knowledge might not help much but I can talk in a dodgy french accent!
and yay we MUST go to Paris later in the year ;-)

louise said...

Everyone has there own way of learning vocab. What really works for me is to take a list out walking, for me the rythym of walking went really well with repetitive memorisation. But each to their own. Enjoy!

I'm all for breaking down this monolingual society - good onya!

Jejune said...

That sounds very exciting - good on you for diving in and giving it a go!

My sister did French lessons in Canberra for years - she now lives in London, where she pops across the Channel fairly often, and can make herself understood - so you never know when or where you'll need it.

Plus it's hands down the sexiest language alive ;)