I’m not sure if I mentioned this in one of my earlier posts but if I did, it was only a passing reference, so it deserves embellishment. It still makes me smile to myself when I think about it !
When I was in my 3rd year of university, I had the opportunity of choosing a subject that was unrelated to the degree subject, so I threw caution to the wind and chose French, mainly to break the monotony of exclusively reading the same subject over the entirety of my final year. and because I really wanted to learn how to speak and understand French.
So, French it was! Walking towards the building that languages were studied in, I tried to get into the right mindset by uttering ‘Bonjour’ to myself, swiftly followed by ‘Merci’.
I passed people in the street on my way to the building and carefully picked random individuals to say my 2 French words! I received looks of surprise, shock and a couple of ‘He must be insane ‘ expressions! I didn’t care, i accept it was practice without permission and I was verbally assaulting the ears of total strangers with my mispronunciation of the beautiful French language, but it was practice.
When I walked into the cramped classroom I looked at a woman who I presumed to be the tutor and gave her my best ‘Bonjour’. A small controlled laugh escaped her mouth, accompanied with a ‘Oh God no’! Expression and she replied with words I didn’t understand. My confused expression gave her a massive hint that I was a complete novice. That was the start of a brief but amusing relationship between an accomplished French speaking tutor and a incompetent student.
Anyway, as the weeks flew by I became slightly better but I had developed a way of speaking French in the style of Charles Asnavour, complete with a little shake of the head. I can’t remember the tutors name (Sorry Madame) But she appeared to be more than happy with my enthusiasm, which probably explained why she tolerated my way of murdering the language she obviously loved.
It came towards the end of the subject and I had been paired up with a younger woman to speak for 10 or 15 minutes entirely in French. She was far more advanced than I, so she helped me as much as she could during the weeks of practice before the exam.
The exam began very well, better than I had hoped for. We were having a conversation about staying in a coastal town in France and choosing a restaurant to eat in, that sold seafood. We were both sat side by side, in front of separate computers, speaking into a mic with headphones on. Three quarters of the way through the exam I glanced at her and she looked so happy, literally beaming with confidence. That was the turning point! What I had learnt regarding the rest of the practised conversation escaped my panicked brain, and flew out of the open window to flutter around the city below, abandoning me at my hour of need!
I looked at my speaking partner and listened to her perfect French until it was my turn. I couldn’t remember anything! I continued to stare at her whilst she tried in vain to prompt me without talking, moving her arms around wildly in a game of French charades! Her rising panic caused me to nervously laugh and all I could think of that vaguely resembled French was Rene from the British sit-com Allo Allo. So I spoke the remaining few minutes of the exam as Rene, saying random words in a French accent with English words!!
At least my insane, desperate impression gave my partner the opportunity to complete her part of the exam! At one point the tutor passed behind our computers without looking down at us and I could see her mouth attempting to stifle a laugh.
The end of the exam finally came and my partner jumped to her feet, gripping the arms of her swivel chair with white knuckles and without saying a word, picked up her bag and walked away, her expression resembling that of a potential mass Murderer. I didn’t even get the chance to apologise. I watched her walk out of the classroom as I muttered ‘Au revoir ‘ in her direction!
Remarkably, I actually passed my exam and the whole French course and I have no idea how!
So that’s it, my total journey into learning French. So it’s au revoir from me and merci for reading.