Nina is keeping me company this fine evening.
People ask me how I am getting on here. It has been a month and the initial jitters have disappeared. I am no longer terrified of finding the right ‘Amphi’ (l’amphithéâtre’ = lecture hall) in campus. I have made friendships from a range of different situations, on my corridor, meeting ERASMUS students, organised language tandem nights and classes. In lectures I can understand 50%, sometimes 70% of what the teacher is saying, which is often at such supersonic speed not even the French students can keep up, reassuring for me to some degree. But at least the lecturers I have this semester are decent oralists, all thoroughly engaging and rigorous. I record all of my classes and re-listen at home, which takes hours and is incredibly boring. Finally I am in France and I want to go out and meet the world but in fact I must do this in order to survive the year and enjoy any hope of passing my exams. Oh God.
How is the French you still ask. Well, I am still very overwhelmed. I anticipated a big challenge, but nothing like the sort of the ominous, ginormous globe of French I wake up to every day. The globe consists of not just French, but lots of different Frenches – my stupid word for ‘branches of French’ – must be learned at the same time.
There is dry, long, heavy French legalese that uses certain phrases and tenses not used anywhere else in the language. This is particularly difficult to grasp in Le Droit des Obligations (OH how I regret so much picking this course but that’s karma for me) which includes French Contract Law and France’s equivalent of Tort Law. Every sentence is a puzzle that I must pick apart. It is extremely tiring and I await with great anticipation the day I open a book to be able to read a sentence for less than 3 seconds and understand it perfectly.
Fortunately, French students are extremely, amazingly, brilliantly helpful. On Facebook I have joined all the student group pages where students exchange notes. It is seriously LIFE saving and I couldn’t be more grateful. At the moment I’m having to annotate a lot of words with their English counterparts, but I’ll manage okay I hope.
I say that, but I also have a tutorial (Travaux Dirigés) every week which means a French law essay/dissertation/judgment/thing every week. For me I have it ‘easy’, the other students enjoy 2-3 TDs! But still this is probably the most difficult thing I have ever attempted in my education so far.
Then there’s colloquial every day French spoken by warm-blooded human beings that is softer and blander in terms of intonation and articulation. Words are compressed, filed away into abbreviations and convenient clusters of sounds that make talking much easier. It’s really fun learning this type of French, because it IS so much easier to speak it. I recant little phrases to myself sometimes when I’m cycling around or chilling in my room. (Cool kid.) What happens is I tend to imagine scenarios or conversations in my head and speak back to my alter ego, conscience, whatever you want to call it, in French.
How do I control this ball of French? From where can I tackle? I can’t escape it.
Like life my French has its peaks and its lows. Some days I wake up and I have fluidity and confidence and other days I haven’t a clue what anybody is saying and I know that conversing with me is tiring. I know, I really do. And I understand. Thank you to everyone who has to put up with me! C’est chaud (it’s tough) but I am loving it.
Here’s a list of words I found perplexing to pronounce. I’ve been practising and I have mastered nearly all of them, boo yah.
- Bouilloire (the French don’t even know)
- Les accessoires
- Trois représentations
In other news, I had an interview this morning at the European Parliament for a Stagiaire Position. Not sure if I made a good impression. I came away with big regrets, but it was a worthwhile thing to apply for. Three hours later Angela Merkel, François Hollande and the King of Spain would arrive. How cool is that!
I love my bike.
You can study exotic mushrooms at the Université Populaire on Monday evenings.
I discovered I am turning grey. Fantastic.
Class at 8am tomorrow. See ya.