year abroad :: au fur et à mesure

Petit à petit, peu à peu*, whatever you want to call it…I’m happy to announce that my French is improving. I’m slightly wary of stating that with too much excitement, especially as not a day goes by where I don’t use wordreference.com – my absolute language-learning best friend. But, I do feel that French is finally coming a lot more naturally to me.

Recently, I’ve decided to just go with it a lot more, because at the end of the day I’m here to practise, and no one really cares if I make a mistake every now and then. I’m also very excited to inform you that I will be staying in France longer!!! I’ve bagged myself another job teaching English but this one is more likely to be so much more rewarding, I can’t wait to start!

But back to the language that holds my heart…

When I chose to become a language assistant, I thought it would be great experience if I ever go into teaching, but would leave me time to develop my cultural awareness too.

I did in fact laugh it off that I would be teaching English for just twelve hours a week…pfft, PLENTY of time to practise my French. Well, in all honesty, I can say that’s not quite the case. If any of you reading also studying languages and will be going on a year abroad, I would be wary of the language assistants programme if you are really wanting to see a speedy improvement in your language acquisition.

France is also a very bizarre country, with so many juxtapositions and contradictions that you have to navigate around, and I find that sometimes I have had so much time to play with that I’m in situations that I wouldn’t be in if I was doing a full-time job. Nothing dangerous of course,

Also 20 is an awkward age to live in this country, especially if you’re not a student. If you study abroad, as a friend from church made a note of, you almost have a pre-created group of friends (whether you gel or not). As a teaching assistant you don’t have this. Yes, there’s a fellow community of language assistants but you don’t do the same social activities as a student would do. Sometimes I can be a bit of a hermit, okay more than a bit, so dragging myself out to get involved with anything is effort. But at the same time, I’m so thankful when I have done it.

But I also live in a small town where not much is going on, and if you want to even say one line in French you either need to have something wrong with you or some kind of an issue. Cashiers don’t talk to you in the way they do in England so that’s a weekly conversation out of the window, and that goes for both in supermarkets and in shops. If caught off-guard my être and avoirs get muddled, like when I tried to explain an event to my neighbour. Thankfully he completely understood and smiled and happily went on his way so I didn’t feel like too much of a lemon.

I’ve also found that I can understand people of my own age or above well. They articulate properly despite the common non-articulation of almost all French words and we can hold a conversation. But when it comes to my students, and trying to earwig in on their conversations mid-class (so I can help them, obvs) it’s a whole load of gobbledygook and I just give them to “quoi???” look. Their faces, however, when they realise I have actually understood them is priceless and I crush all their hopes of an English lesson taught in French when I continue to ignore their demands for me to speak in French.

Although I have found making friends in France ridiculously hard, the friends I have made are French and I’m unbelievably ecstatic about that. I have a friend for life, as well as and handful of gorgeous French girls that have made me feel so welcome and less like a loner in this little town of Libourne.

Emilie, Laurie et Marine

I would also like to send a whole lot of love to my friends for putting up with my complaints of loneliness, reminding me of all the incredible benefits of being abroad and putting me back on track.

Six and a half months in, five months left to go. Bring it.

Love,

Anna

P.s. It’s crazy how at home I feel here now.

*little by little

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