Friday, February 26, 2010

My French Language Quest: The Tutor

I am DETERMINED that I am going to learn to speak French.  
Those of us who are trying to learn a new language often have trouble when we try to speak that language in an ongoing conversation.  I know that this is my worst problem.  I can read ok, and I can often pick up the general idea when I am listening.  I can even speak in isolated phrases when I think it out.

But heaven help me if someone actually answers me after I speak! When it comes to an ongoing conversation...Yikes.  The problem for me is that I cannot think fast enough to figure out what someone else is saying and then put together my own thoughts for what I should say next.  

The only way to get better at this is to practice, practice, practice.  Then practice some more.

So I hired a tutor to work with me on my skills in speaking.  Her name is Ly.  She was born in Laos, but her parents moved to Besançon, France when she was little.  She is just fantastic.

Here is what a typical one-hour lesson is like:

Ly gives me homework to watch a French film on my own. (Yes, I still need the subtitles).  I either order the film or watch it instantly on Netflix. (Netflix has lots of French films that you can view instantly.  If you have not tried this yet, check it out)  Sometimes Ly lends me her copy of the DVD.  

For my lesson, we discuss (all in French!) the characters in the film, the vision of the director, the costumes, scenery, colors and how they contribute to that vision, and so on.  It is quite a workout for me.  She helps me if I get totally stuck, but she makes me try hard to express myself without her prompting. 

After that, we spend some time on grammar.  Ly makes note of what I need the most help on from the last lesson, and she brings me oral and written work for that grammar area. (She has many areas to choose from, believe me). 

Next I read aloud from a poem or fable or news story that Ly has emailed me so I can work on pronunciation.   This exercise is designed to get me out of some bad habits.  Ly tells me that my "nasals" need work and that I need to slow down my speech.  She says when I talk fast, I slur sounds -- too much like an English speaker. (She calls it too, too  Eegleesh.)

By the end of the hour, I am exhausted but happy that I am starting to make progress in MY FRENCH LANGUAGE QUEST. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Loving France? Still Waiting #3

...continued .... This post is a continuation of  the Loving France?  thread that tells how I became a card-carrying Francophile.  You can read earlier posts and read them in numerical order, if you wish.
Just check out the archives.  

When I last left you in this thread (in #2) we were on vacation in a tent having a gin and tonic.  We were not in France.  Not even close.
Our life changed over time.  In the words of the inimitable Sonny and Cher, "The Beat Goes On."
We find new jobs in new cites.
We move past the tent. (We still kind of miss it, and we still use a tent for weekend trips to state parks)
We plan our first trip "across the pond."

If you are someone who uses "summer" as a verb -- as in "Last year I summered in Nantucket" -- I am sure that it comes as a shock to you that someone could be this far along in life without making this journey.

Oh, you who had ski trips to Saint Moritz in middle school and high school spring breaks in Prague!
Not everyone had the opportunities that you took for granted as a kid.  We are just thankful to be able to do so now.

So it it time to make our first trip overseas.  And we chose .... not France.
We went to England.  I think many Americans choose England for their first big trip.
We are embarrassed and nervous that we are not able to speck another language.
We think that (at least theoretically) we can speak and be understood in the UK.

So we took several trips to England

and then to Scotland


and also to Wales

It was wonderful, as you can see.  We loved every single minute of our trips in the UK -- from Cornwall and Devon to Yorkshire and the Lake District in England to Aberdeen and the Isle of Skye in Scotland to Betws-y-Coed and Snowdonia in Wales. 

Then my dear dad took me on a trip to Italy.

Fantastic.  What a beautiful country!  The food!  The art!  The wonderful people!

But not France.

You are probably wondering, "When does France come into the picture?"  And what is it about that place that gets under your skin?

Stay tuned.