Sunday, 4 September 2011

France - a week to learn French, Video

I knew my summer holiday was going to be different the moment I made the decision not to follow my partner for a 10 day jungle break in Venezuela but to spend a week with friends in the South of France. It was time to learn french, delve into the language, culture and people - exploring the country in another language.

I headed to Draigignon, flying London City Airport - Toulons - friends picked me up for the one-hour journey to the 1,000 year old historic town in the countryside just in from the coast of Frejus and Saint Rapheal. Arriving on the Sunday afternoon we headed for a beach picnic with several other accomplishes.

The sun set; the sea a warm 26 degrees and the sand still emitting the heat of the day's 37 degree sun rays. Volley ball, swimming with beer, salad and cheese was like being in paradise.

The Monday was the start of my french. My teacher Anne persuaded me to start early, 9am and I had to be ready and raring to go. It was time to put 18 months of basic learning to the test and take this ability one step further - question and sentence forming. Throwing in various verb conjugations, vocabulary caused peculiar sounds to come from my lips creating a somewhat furrowed brow on Anne's fore-head.

I was speaking Franglais! The 90-minute lesson vanished and I was soon back at the flat bashing new words around my head. My hosts, two wonderful ladies, took me shopping and to the beach - it was time to tune into the sound of french. We basked in the sun before heading home for a workout (where I nearly killed them) followed by dinner.

Tuesday - I was more determined. Learning another language is hard especially when being me - I love to talk and discuss. It was the day to start digesting vocabulary and using sentence formations; new challenges of past and future started fooling my brain.

10.30am - and I headed to catch the bus to Frejus to bask in the sun again. I ordered a salad, asked for change and listened to my Learn French by podcast - words were starting to emerge from the noises and I was actually beginning to 'get' what they were saying.

That evening was pizza and french film night. So we indulged in light-comedy washing it down with some local wine.

Wednesday's class was pretty similar to the day before, yet that evening I was taken to some friends for a BBQ, there I was at a dinner table with 12 non-English speaking french. All fine, I can do this! Suddenly words were sprawling from my mouth, maybe slow and considered and well slightly off-key but a new confidence welled inside me.

Thursday I left the class grasping sheets and sheets of new vocabulary. It was as though my personal trainer was trying to beat that extra scoop of ice cream from my body - giving those brain cells a bit more muscle. That day I spent in town and decided to do some shopping; I bought some vegetables from the market, chatted to the manager of the shoe shop and negotiated a deal with the man in the sunglasses shop. That evening, we took Anne for dinner in the Port of Frejus before calling the extensive day's learning to an end.

I was learning a lot about life in a town in the warmth of the South french countryside. This was not London and certainly not England. Friday I challenged myself to ask for a haircut, and 15 minutes later I was left with the barnet of my choice! (Though it could have gone horribly wrong).

Saturday I headed to Paris to meet Francois and head to Evron in the West of France. Deep in the countryside this little farming town is a place I have visited three other times. Introduced to 40th birthday celebrations with 150 french all in exuberent moods - well I struggled, further the accent is somewhat different...hmmmm - challenge number 2!

We danced til daylight before collapsing back at the farm in a deep sleep.

France - yet to return!