The Gradual Progression

Being able to understand 99% of what people say in French is a huge accomplishment, I feel. I remember constantly struggling to understand movies or songs in French when I was in college and then trying to understand actual conversations when I first arrived in France. Today I have no problems understanding any of those things. I like being able to watch Amélie again and understand it perfectly, when I know I couldn’t do that before. Today it seems so easy. And that’s why I get so frustrated while studying German or Italian. I cannot understand 99% of what people say and it makes me feel like a failure. But I haven’t been exposed to those languages nearly as long as I have been to French.

I’ve been in France for over 3 years now and I need to keep in mind the enormous amount of information that my brain absorbed. I do remember struggling to speak even a year after my arrival. By the following summer, things were better, but still not good. Finally during my 3rd summer, I felt more and more confident and had real, normal, long, in-depth conversations with French people!  I had been learning how to communicate the entire time, but I never noticed when I picked up new vocabulary or when I was able to speak more coherently without stumbling because there is a gradual progression to learning a language. One day you just realize that you can understand, and that you can respond to questions, and that you can function like a human being in a genuine conversation instead of just saying yes or no or I don’t know.

If I had come to France to study French, I’m sure that my acquisition would have been quicker. But I came here to teach English, and even now I feel that teaching English prevents me from perfecting my French. That’s a huge concern for me since I would like to teach French someday. Of course, I was also preoccupied with studying a little German and Italian, so I can’t say my focus has been all on French. Nevertheless, the simple fact of being immersed in French everyday – even when I didn’t want to be or didn’t notice it – has helped immensely. Now I’m trying to replicate that with German, which obviously can’t be done the exact same way as I do not live in a German-speaking country, but I’m really trying to listen to German as much as possible. And maybe one day I’ll notice that I can understand every word in Good Bye, Lenin! and all of this hard work to acquire yet another language will feel as if it had been so easy all along.

Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières & Partners in Health

Please think about donating. My heart goes out to Haiti. I’ve also donated to Partners in Health, the organization created by the amazing Dr. Paul Farmer to help the poor in Haiti receive health care.  You can read about his life and work in Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man […]

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In the end, I still choose France (for now)

Remember that list of reasons why I live in France that I posted a few months ago? Numbers 2, 5, and 8 are really relevant right now. I’ve only worked two days since December 16, and I still have another week off before the second semester starts. The 3 inches of snow we got last […]

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More Snow and More Vacation

Rhône-Alpes is supposed to get more snow on Friday. The forecast says neige forte, and they’re predicting around 6 inches for Chambéry.  Good thing I don’t have to go anywhere and David’s work is only a few blocks away so he can walk. I’m already back on (paid) vacation after two days of phonetics exams […]

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Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow! Actually, please stop…

Woke up to this: Did not expect that much snow. I could have sworn the forecast just said flurries. I have to give oral exams tomorrow at the university and I have a feeling I’ll need to take the bus. If this van couldn’t get out of its parking spot, my car is doomed. At […]

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The Beginning Translator’s Workbook (French to English)

I bought The Beginning Translator’s Workbook: Or the ABC of French to English Translation a long time ago when I thought I might want to try translating as a career and I finally got around to reading it this past week. It actually offers a lot of good tips for switching between the two languages […]

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Two Thousand Ten / Deux Mille Dix

Happy 2010! (for those who follow the Gregorian calendar) Happy something else equally pointless! (to those who don’t) I am not a fan of New Year’s except for the fact that it’s a non-religious holiday and we don’t have to work. So yay to that!

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Sight-seeing in Chambéry

Having guests stay with you means you can finally be a tourist in your own town. Jessica, an English assistant from 2 years ago, was back in France to visit her boyfriend, and they stayed with us for 2 days before heading back to Annecy and then up to Strasbourg. Even though we’ve lived here […]

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Third Christmas in France

My first Christmas in France was in 2006. I had just arrived in September and met David shortly after, and since I had no plans (no money) to go back to the US for Christmas, I spent it with his family. It was interesting and different but it just didn’t feel right. Especially when they […]

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Looking Ahead to 2010

Winter seems to be over already. Those 3 days of cold and snow were enough. Now it’s rainy and nearly 50 F, which is fine by me since I only like winter in North America. One good thing about not going home for Christmas is not getting stuck at airports or train stations like so […]

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Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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