I, like many other English people do not look back on my high school French classes with fond memories – all I remember is completing grammar exercises in a book, copying from the board and learning verb forms with very little explanation as to why this would be useful to us in later life. We hardly ever spoke or communicated in the language and the only few sentences I can remember from the five years I studied were learned by memory to pass the exam and went a little something like this ….’I am sixteen years old and I live in Stockport. I have a cat called Spike who is black and white and I like watching the O.C.’ Needless to say, the same sentences are not applicable to me now.
Now, as an adult, I look back at those classes and realise that language learning does not have to be like that, classes can be fun and engaging and can teach us much more useful things than how to talk about are dearly departed pets. Often I have felt like the ignorant English person, who when taken out of their native environment, finds they are unable to even communicate in even the most basic way and ends up just mumbling something very quietly and hoping for the best. This has resulted in me being grossly over charged, ending up with things that I did not want or did not know what they were and missing out on the chance to really understand the culture of the place I am visiting.
So, with this in mind I joined a beginners French course at ABLE Manchester in order to overcome my fears, build my confidence and pick up some skills so on my next trip to France, I wouldn’t feel like such an ignorant foreigner.
The first day rolled around and as I went to the school, I was filled with first day jitters – `What would my teacher by like? What if I don’t know the answer? Will I get in trouble for not doing my homework? However, the minute I arrived I knew this would not be the case, I walked in and saw lots of people sitting around, having a coffee and waiting for their class to start – it all seemed very relaxed and laid back and I suddenly realised I wasn’t about to be shouted out for having my skirt too short or being five minutes late.
I was taken into my classroom and met my teacher, a warm, friendly French girl – called Cyrielle. The class began with each of us getting to speak a little bit about ourselves and then learning how to introduce ourselves in French, we were laughing and joking as we tried to master the French accent and the class flew by. As I walked out of the class I was already looking forward to my second one.
The rest of the 10 weeks were just as enjoyable and I found that every week I was building on my skills, I had confidence to communicate and formulate sentences on my own. One of the key things Cyrielle taught us was the importance of learning ‘chunks’ of language rather than individual words which made it easier to remember and gave me more confidence when I was speaking as I found I was more fluent as I wasn’t scrambling to put the sentences together.
The best thing was, when I went to Paris I found that not only could I order a meal and ask for directions but when there were some attractive French boys at the next table of the bar, I could follow along to part of their conversation and when they started talking to my friend and I, I only blushed with embarrassment because they were so good looking not because I was an ignorant foreigner.
Bonne Chance – with your language learning!
Steph completed a 10 week beginners French course at ABLE Manchester, to find out more about our next course please click here