Flunking Immersion French . . .

I took the bus into Montpellier last week for a course in immersion French. A bargain basement sort of course with accommodations thrown in. Perhaps the price should have been a clue, but I was excited. I could envision it. One week of immersion French then, back in Montpeyroux, chatting easily with the butcher, the baker, the guy in the epicerie. No more pointing, stuttering, smiling as though I understood. After immersion, I’d be able to ask complex and intelligent questions. Understand complex and intelligent answers. Past, present, future– you name it. What is the actual difference between creme fraiche and fromage blanc? Something about the process, is it? And what about fromage fraise? Of course, knowledge wasn’t the point; I already knew the answers. I was after fluency.

Sad to say, my French as I write this is still far from fluent. I looked up the word fluent. L.fluentum.fluid, to flow. By that definition, my French is about as fluid as a tub of fromage blanc. Or fromage fraise. I did not immerse. I barely dipped. Conjugating French verbs with newly minted high school graduates traumatized my 60-something year-old confidence. After class, I drank a lot of beer. I couldn’t do my homework. Unable to sleep, I paced my cell-like room. I popped antacids. By the third day, terrified that I’d be called on to demonstrate my incomplete understanding of les pronoms complĂ©ments, I spared myself the humiliation and dropped out.

Yep, I flunked immersion French, or would have if I’d stayed to take the test. Instead, I popped across the road to the hair salon, explained, in French, how I wanted my roots touched up (they did quite a good job) then went to the chemist and refilled my prescription for heartburn medicine. Funny though, once I dropped out, the heartburn disappeared.

So, I don’t know, maybe I’m immersing myself in my own way. I wish the progress was . . . a bit more fluid. Less clotted with confusion. Be patient, everyone tells me, it takes time.

Fortunately, the week wasn’t a complete loss. I still had my cell-like room, the French landlord was happy to chat to me. One night he invited me to go with him for dinner at the house of some friends. He was grilling anchovies, he said. Would I mind riding on the back of his BMW motorbike, he asked. I didn’t mind at all, I told him. It all seemed quite in keeping with my immersion school drop out persona.

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By La vie en France

6 comments on “Flunking Immersion French . . .

  1. janice…i really am laughing out loud and hope that you are too…lots of love, Melissa…by the way, my friend richard is arriving on sunday so i’ll be able to talk to him about driving down to montpeyrous and montpellier around the end of october…will you still be around???…i really do hope that you manage to stay longer than just the year

  2. Thankyou, Melissa. It’s funnier in retrospect, so, yes, I’m laughing too. The end of October would be the perfect time for a visit. One set of companies will have left, the other not yet arrived. I would love to see you. I am committed to staying in Montpeyroux for a year–till the end of May 2014. I may well stay beyond that, but probably in a different area. We’ll see. I’d love a place with a little garden.. Always gives me a smile to see your emails. Janice

  3. Hi Janice
    (Lyn from the SFN board here).
    If it’s any consolation, I too flunked out of my first (and only) proper French course. The ultra-cool kids straight from school on a year out studying/working in France were too much for me. Plus what they needed to learn was a big departure from what I needed to know to sort kids, houses and family finances.
    I’m slowly getting there; probably a long way from where I’d be if I’d stuck at formal classes, but getting there nonetheless.
    Bon courage!

  4. Hi Lyn, thanks, always good to hear from fellow flunkees. Someone said it would be nice if you could just take a pill and become fluent! Until then, I guess it’s just practice and time.

  5. You are already enrolled in a year-long French immersion course! i get frustrated by the possible thought that my French neighbours consider me the new Village Idiot but I shall persist! Be patient with yourself.

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