Friday, April 1, 2011

Learning French in France exceedingly different from learning Japanese in Japan. For one thing, I know not to expect any praise for my meager efforts to communicate in the local tongue. At best, Parisians respond to my lousy French patiently, but with indifference. They'll often just start speaking to me in English--a courtesy, I'm sure, but a bit frustrating when most of my reason for being here is to learn French.

At my language school the ladies who work at the front desk seem to have little patience or sympathy for people who can't communicate articulately in French. A bit ironic, if you ask me. Yesterday, feeling confident that I knew just enough vocabulary to communicate that I was not in possession of the list of activities put on by the school each month and that I would like one, please, I approached the receptionist and attempted to convey my desire. Without looking up from her computer screen, she listened to my broken explanation, furrowed her brow, and said, still without looking at me, "Je ne comprens pas." It took a little more scrambling for words before I was understood and told that I could get the schedule on Monday.

But the point that should be taken away from all this is not that Parisians are rude or that I feel I am entitled to a little more positive reinforcement. I would argue that neither is the case. Not everyone can be as liberal with compliments as Americans tend to be. The point that should be taken from this, rather, is that I am in fact learning French! With approximately five hours a day dedicated to disciplined study of the language, and much of the rest of the day spent reading signs, food labels, and menus and practicing basic exchanges with waitresses or people on the metro, I'm excited to find that I'm already experiencing results.

Who knows where I'll be linguistically when my course ends in two weeks? But I am thrilled to know that I am setting the foundation for a new skill that I can continue to nurture and develop in the future.