For my first two weeks of Pre-intermediate French immersion school, I had grammar and communication classes daily until 12:20 pm, except on Fridays when classes ended at 10:30 am. At first I was surprised that my head wasn’t exploding after nearly four hours of 100% French! I even talked with my husband in French while walking home.
Every Friday we have a test to gauge our mastery of what we learned over the week.
Here is part of something I wrote during Week 1 (an exercise using conditionnel présent):
Si je n’étais pas devenu géologue, je n’aurais pas appris à-propos du monde naturel. J’aurais confondu des magnifique structures géologiques pour des roche grises et ennuyeuses. Je n’aurais pas voyagé dans des contrées lointaines. Je ne serais pas aller au Nunavut, ni en Turquie, ou au Chili. Je n’aurais pas marché sous terre dans une mine.
Mais par-dessus tout, je n’aurais pas rencontré mon mari à l’université!
I know it’s like a 12-year old wrote it, but it was a start!
At home I started watching Caillou, a cartoon for pre-schoolers, with and without subtitles with my husband. Don’t laugh! It was a great way for me to improve on my listening because the characters speak slowly and enunciate well. The subjects are very simple too (Caillou apprend à nager, Caillou prend son bain, etc.). Each episode lasts less than five minutes – the attention span of a pre-schooler. And that too was my attention span when watching something in French. LOL.
The only downside of this was that the Caillou theme song was stuck in our heads! ~Je n’ai peur de rien, car papa et maman ne sont jamais bien loin!~
We also watched Un Chef à L’oreille (Québec’s version of Chef in Your Ear). Though having the subtitles really helped me follow along, I still had to ask my husband what many words or expressions meant. But I got the gist of it. I downloaded the tou.tv app on my iPad to watch more episodes but they didn’t have subtitles like on the desktop version! I watched an episode anyway and miraculously understood 70% of it. I’ve been told that it’s easier to watch or to listen to something that interests you. For me that just happens to be cooking!
Other “more advanced” French material I watched included the movie C.R.A.Z.Y. and the popular show 19-2. I couldn’t just keep watching cooking shows! Never mind that I understood only 5% of them, relying on my husband to tell me everything that was going on. Wah.
The school plans activities around Québec City everyday starting at 2:30 pm. Unfortunately all of the activities require taking the bus to get there. My neurosurgeon didn’t specifically forbid me to take the bus (not that I asked), but I figured that taking the bus, with all its sudden movements, with a broken neck wasn’t a good idea. So sadly, I couldn’t join any of the activities unless it was within walking distance.
How did my shoulders and neck fare with this more “normal” lifestyle? My shoulders felt a bit tired and sore at the end of the morning, but I just laid down in bed and did some shoulder exercises as soon as I got home. As for my neck… ça va. I don’t usually experience much pain anyway. I had a reserve of Tylenols in case some pain randomly crept up on me.
By my third week, I decided to go ~*full-time*~ and add a conversation class after lunch. Doing that meant that I had to prepare my own lunch to eat at school! It had been a long time since I had to prepare my own lunch (with my own food) after working at camps as a geologist post-university. (These camps were equipped with their own kitchens and supplied us employees with all the food we could possibly want!) Because I wasn’t sure if my shoulders would survive a couple more hours without rest, the school allowed me to pay for the class on a weekly basis. If I needed a week of rest, I could just skip a week of afternoon classes. So far it’s been just fine, my body never felt so tired to do that.
I love my conversation class. For just less than an hour, we engage in activities that make us just talk and talk and talk (in French, of course)! Our activities ranged from games, discussions, and debates.
Our favourite enigme (riddle):
Tous les matins, un homme habitant au 18ème étage prend l’ascenseur, du 18ème jusqu’au rez-de-chaussée, pour aller travailler. Tous les soirs quand il revient, il prend l’ascenseur jusqu’au 8ème niveau et emprunte les escaliers jusqu’au 18ème étage.
Pourquoi ne prend-il pas l’ascenseur jusqu’au 18ème étage ?
Think about this one! In class we spent so much time asking questions in order to get to the answer… and we still didn’t by the time the class was over. It was great practice to ask questions in French nonetheless! (Answer at the end of this post!)
I really sucked at managing my time when I got home though. We usually had homework and I just wanted to write in my blog!!! (Like right now, LOL.) I always slept around midnight for my 7:30 am alarm and needed to take naps in the afternoon. Seven and a half hours of sleep might be normal for most people, but I was so used to sleeping up to 10 hours per day without an alarm! I am trying to make an effort to sleep just after I use my bone stimulator at 9:30 pm (but it never happens…).
As if moving to a 100% French city wasn’t unfamiliar enough, I had a grand total of four friends before going to French school – my friend from work Will and my husband’s cousin Manon along with her boyfriend and her friend. Not that I cared, really. My husband told me that I would probably gain a lot of friends at school… and he was right!
When I started eating lunch at school because of my afternoon classes, all of the students (Beginner and Pre-intermediate) sat in the same table but barely anyone spoke. Maybe it was because we needed to speak in French? LOL.
That all changed after our Halloween Party where we all got to know each other a bit more!
We played a game called Loup-Garou (werewolf). Although this is not the most legit source, this was the best I could find for the rules in English.
I won’t go out of the way to describe the game myself but it’s extremely fun! Try it out at your next party! (OMG FOR CHRISTMAS!!!)
Because I’m super lame, I didn’t dress up in full costume. Instead I brought the photo booth props from our wedding for everyone to use!
We were asked to bring a typical dish from our respective countries for our potluck. We were a varied group from all over the world – Canada, Philippines, Mexique, Japon, Suisse, États-Unis, et Brésil!
I brought my specialty, lumpiang shanghai (Filipino spring rolls). I made and rolled up them up the night before and woke up early to fry them! My husband and I had a great breakfast of crispy lumpia with rice. YUMS. Unfortunately they got a little soggy because I had to stack them on top of each other to bring them to school.
Fabienne from Switzerland made a chocolate cake with Swiss chocolate. Her mère d’accueil (homestay/host mom?) made some raspberry coulis to go with it. It looked so much like blood, perfect for Halloween!
Shizu from Japan won best costume!
During the potluck, one of my teachers told me, “Danica, tu es vraiment courageouse,” (for having a neck brace and still going to French school 😊)
Below are the rest of our Halloween Party photos~
Now we talk with each other at lunch time. LOL. Here’s us going up to Vieux-Québec on Alyssa’s (from Alaska, USA) last day after one of our Friday exams.
Vers le prochain niveau
It just so happened that after a month of Pre-intermediate (A2) French, all the levels were scheduled to have a big exam to pass their respective levels. (Since classes at BLI are on-going and not everyone starts at the same time, we just have the level exam when we finish the book we’re using.)
The exam tested your competency in:
- Oral comprehension (listening)
- Oral production (speaking)
- Written comprehension (reading)
- Written production (writing)
Everything was ça marche, except the listening part. I AM TERRIBLE AT LISTENING. We watched three short videos twice each and answered questions about them (example here). Ugh. I should have practiced more! Instead I wrote in my blog the night before. Hehehe.
Anyway I passed the test – but barely! The passing grade was 80% and I got… drum roll please… 80.5%!
So I’m officially in the Intermediate (B1) level:
Can understand the main points of clear standard speech on familiar subjects in work, school, leisure activities, etc. Can manage in most situations that come up when travelling in a region where the language is spoken. Can produce a simple and cohesive text on familiar subjects or subjects of personal interest. Can narrate an event, an experience or a dream; describe a desire or goal, and outline reasons or explanations behind a project or idea. (Source: France Langue)
Month 1 milestones
- I can write better. I once wrote an email to a friend and asked my husband to correct it. He said it was the best French email I’ve written since 2011 when we would write each other French emails!
- I can read better and actually understand texts. I’m not ready for novels or anything like that yet though.
- I can speak more naturally. I once even succeeded telling my entire broken neck story to an acquaintance at the bar! (Visual aids such as my X-ray and halo photos on my phone came in handy too!) By the end of Month 1, I still had some issues conjugating verbs, but at least I knew and used all the verb tenses out there and not just ONE (present tense) like before. While I could express myself more easily, I still needed to search for my words – sometimes in class I could imagine crickets chirping when I pause for so long mid-sentence. Haha. It used to annoy me when my husband corrected my every sentence but it happens less and less now! (Maybe every third sentence now. LOL.)
- I can understand and follow the entire class now. And I don’t have a headache at the end of class!
- I can more-than-just-survive in this city. My French skills have advanced from just being able to order at a restaurant or café in previous years, to making reservations (restaurants, workshops, etc.), completing an entire optical exam, getting a massage (and describing all my injuries and painful areas), and attending a cooking class entirely in French!
- I find it fun to speak in French now? Okay, maybe not all the time.
I still need to improve on:
- LISTENING. During class when we played dialogues from the book’s accompanying CD, I first understood literally only 5 to 10% of it. Now it’s more than 60%, YAY! I am currently making a serious effort listening to French radio and watching more shows. For example, we recently upgraded from Caillou and started watching Découverte, a very well-produced science show from Radio-Canada, as recommended to me by one of my teachers.
- Speaking in French more at home with my husband. During Month 1 we spoke in French together only 20% of the time. Now it’s more like 40%! He’s also learning Tagalog (random words and sentences here and there) but we can all agree that it may be a lot harder for him. Goal: 70% French at home! 20% English, 10% Tagalog. 😛
I’m now in my second month of French school with less than two weeks to go! After the holidays I will return for more French adventures until I can go back to work (around March 2016).
In an effort to read more French, I’ve been reading comic books (bande dessinées ou BD). I first started with Asterix et Obelix and today I just bought C’est pas facile d’être une fille by Bach! I’m actually going to her (comic) book-signing tomorrow, hehehe.
Solution à l’enigme:
C’est parce qu’il s’agit un homme de petite taille incapable d’atteindre un bouton plus haut que celui du 8ème étage !