After 2.5 hours of my first French class, I am now the proud (NOT!) speaker of ONE word of French… or a phrase, if you’re feeling generous… ‘Et Toi?’ meaning ‘how about you?’.
I mean I can’t be counting words like ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Merci’ if I am to be taken seriously regarding my latest adventure – ‘a 3-week intense course in French, level A1′.
(On an unrelated topic, the Google suggestion for ‘Bonjour’ is ‘Bourbon’. Figures! I reckon I’ll be needing a lot more of that at this rate.)
So, I woke up this morning, after 3 weeks of being in this new country and ran, through rain and cold, for my first French class. Very very exciting! As anyone who ever went to a new school of any kind would know, there is a certain special species of butterflies that only show up when you’re in for facing a classroom. The thought of a room full of strangers ready to size you up is quite an unnerving breakfast and not for the faint hearted OR those with stage fright (I often suffer a severe case of the latter).
Having made it there with enough time, I walked in and grabbed the seat closest to the door (in-case things got crazy and I needed a quick exit…kidding!). Next to me sat a pretty woman in a leather skirt (no, not the short risky type but the long conservative yet fashionable sort) and next to her was a broad muscular guy with a constantly amused expression. Good neighbors to have sat down next to. Across from us sat a tall slim young French woman who looked very confident, a shorter more shy looking girl, a lady from Ibiza and a girl from Kyrgyzstan. Quite an interesting bunch of people overall.
Then the class began and within 10 minutes it became quite clear that this was not going to be anything short of absolutely hilarious.
Firstly, there was a constant babble of at least 5 different languages at any point in the room. If not languages, at least five different styles of pronunciation, which meant every phrase we were taught was attempted, tested, teased out and completely butchered by 7 people from 7 different backgrounds! The result was chaotic and my notebook pages are great testaments to this utter confusion.
Secondly, nobody warned me that a language class for French could be taught partly in French! I mean something about that makes no sense, right? Our teacher, while absolutely great with people, was clearly French and this meant she constantly went right back to her native language when she gave us instructions. I found myself feeling like I was back in Chemistry class at school (H2SO what?!) and my classmates must have noticed it because I was given loads of help in Italian, Spanish, Russian and of course more French!
Thirdly, while French uses the same Latin base as English and hence the same script (A,B,C,D…and so on) the pronunciation is about as different as it gets! For example, why is R pronounced as ‘er’, H as ‘ash’ but Y as ‘e-ghrek’?! Who could imagine spelling out your name at my age could be as embarrassing as that!
Finally, when your teacher, like you, realizes that she has multiple nationalities and languages in the same room, she resorts to a form of theater which is a crude mix of stand up comedy, miming and clowning around. I had heard the comedy festival was on in town but I didn’t realize I bought tickets. There was hooting, clapping, making throaty gurgling noises, cooing like a bird, laying like a table, barking and even some flapping of the arms!
Have to hand it to the teacher… I wish classes in school had been this engaging, exciting and crazy all at once! Phew! It was just day 1 and it was one helluva show I tell you.
Thankfully, I know I’ll get through the next hundred classes just fine because it turns out that my classmates all have ready smiles, seem like they’re lovely people and appreciate a quick coffee with new classmates on a rainy day, just as much as I do.
What’s your favourite classroom story? everyone has a few! share one or more in the comments below if you’d like to…I would love to read them!