The comment was on my report card from Lycée Pasteur, the school I attended in Oran, Algeria as a teenager. My family lived there for a few months due to dad’s engineering job. Unfortunately, we had to leave the country when the Algerian Civil War broke out. Returning home put an end to learning French, something I have always regretted.
When mom sent me the note a few years ago, I was settled in Chicago. Being in Paris was a wish, a recurring thought… I kept visiting, took some French classes, but a one-way ticket to CDG came later.
I never thought I would live in another country before getting fluent in the language. Yet, moving to Paris happened when my level of French was intermediate at best. Enough to get by in everyday situations, but not enough for my liking.
As a travel writer and Business English trainer, I don’t need French for work. But what if I wanted to make use of my marketing background and find another job? Or continue my education? Or have to deal with official matters?
Then there is social life. Knowing French makes it easier to date and make friends – or rather, not being fluent makes it harder to build relations.
In other words, I chose to live in France and need to speak the language well. For my own comfort. And that teenage me in Algeria.
At times learning French feels like acquiring a superpower. The language is complex and will take time to grasp, but I’m enjoying the challenge! What better classroom than Paris?
Simply by being here, I absorb new vocabulary daily. You learn best when you have to use the language, but I also make a conscious effort to study.
Grammar books (to satisfy my inner nerd), slang dictionaries, French movies with subtitles, free papers on the Metro (to practice reading and stay informed on cultural events, a double win). It also helps to have a local friend who is willing to teach and challenge me. Even though he speaks great English, we have a deal that only French is allowed. “I used to simplify it for you, but now I talk the way I do with other friends.” Merci, prof.
There is one thing needed in the mix: regularity. I would like to have weekly in-person sessions with a trainer, like I do with my clients. But planning is hard without a fixed work schedule.
Recently, I have been introduced to Lingoda, an online language school based in Germany. They provide one-on-one and group instruction with native speakers via Skype. Classes are offered around the clock and you get to pick topics, which is the main appeal for me.
Learning French online is a new experience, but going well so far. I like having access to materials before each session. Since I spend much time on the train, I get to download PDF files onto my tablet and prepare on the go. I have been focused on grammar, but plan to take speaking and writing classes down the road.
When I moved to Paris a year ago, being able to read books or see plays in French was a distant future. Encouraged by a special someone, I picked up one novel, then another… and eventually got theater tickets. There is work to be done, especially with speaking, but I am headed in the right direction.
I’m going to continue, je vais persévérer.