Monday, 12 July 2010

Coffee Break French

Yesterday I was in the thermal spa town of Bagnères-de-Luchon, nestled in the stunning Pyrenees (pictured right).

After the waiter delivered my café au lait, I made an in joke with my husband about us taking a 'coffee break French'.

Coffee Break French is a free podcast that we'd been listening to daily leading up to our trip. Hosted by a Scottish duo, we were certain we'd learned to speak French with a Aussie-Scottish accent that made us impossible to understand.

We also concurred that it was easier to practice French in the privacy of our own home, than what it was to the native speakers of France... or members of the French Conversation in Melbourne Group for that matter. I had strategically joined said group prior to my trip but never managed to attend a meetup (tut tut tut).

I was so ashamed of my minuscule vocabulary and poor grammar that I thought I needed to learn more before inflicting myself onto others. When I first arrived here, I avoided speaking French at all costs (despite having spent $500 at Melbourne's Lyceum Language Centre earlier this year). At first I would flush bright red and utter "je parle un petit peu de francais" before attempting to get to the point.

Oh how silly. How vain.

Fast forward a month and I'm happy to report that I'm well chuffed with how my French is coming along. This has become especially evident when communicating with those who speak not a word of anglais. Now I dive in head first, faux pas' and all!

I realised how cute it is when someone is learning English. The difficult-to-comprehend accent and all the little nuances that get lost in translation, just makes it endearing. So if people with petit peu English are endearing to me, then perhaps I might be endearing to the French?

One can hope.

I've had nothing but great fun doing my very best (which might sound like your very worst) in speaking the local lingo. In almost all cases, everybody loves to see me try - and they give me space to do so before rescuing me with English, or sign language.

Until tomorrow, if you're avoiding doing something new because you're not perfect - give yourself a break... a coffee break French even.

Grace xx

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  1. Jess in Adelaide!12 July 2010 at 04:59

    Très bien Grace - tu es un inspiration à moi, parce que je peut parler un peu de francais aussi!!! Not sure if inspiration is the same in French, but I always find that if you pronounce any English words that end in ion in a French accent, you're right part of the time - ha ha!!

    I just laughed when I read about you feeling nervous and not wanting to speak much, or wanting to be perfect...I've had many of those occasions...from my conversation classes at l'Alliance Francaise...I lived with 3 French-Canadians and spoke English to them! friend married her frog prince, and as I was the only other person who could speak French, I ended up being put in front of the groom's beautiful French parents and spluttered a few things...and the funniest thing is that whenever I do speak, I get told how good my accent is and I'm much better than I think!!

    So in the last year or so I've come to the same conclusion - it doesn't matter if you can't speak it perfectly, it's all about having a go. And you're exactly right about how fun it is helping someone to speak English

    All in ne peux pas attendre jusq'u à j'ai l'occasion à parler le francais en j'espère que c'est à bientôt!

    Bon voyage!!

    Love Jess xx

  2. Such an exciting time!

    I'm always really shy about speaking foreign languages - even if I've studied quite a long time. But they say that you just have to push through in order to become fluent.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences! :)

  3. So true about having a go...that's really what it's about... and it's respecting the people in the country you're in. It can be quite arrogant to expect others in their own country to speak your language - better to attempt speaking theirs.

  4. For sure... I also found myself asking "comment se dit..." (how do you say...) whenever I got stuck and it helped expand my vocabulary.


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