My very first trip to France
I have been a Francophile since the age of twelve when I started taking French classes in junior high school. The language was so ?pretty and it came easily to me. At least I thought so. Classroom activities were a piece of cake and I always got A’s on my homework. I honestly thought I was on the road to fluency—by the time I was 14.
Bonjour. Hey, I’m fluent!
I came to France for the first time in 1997, with my high school French class. I was excited and ready to converse with the? natives! However, although I tried my very best, it wasn’t a pretty sight. I couldn’t understand a word they were saying and all I could muster up were two sentences: “Plus lentement, s’il vous plaît,” and “Répétez, s’il vous plaît.”
This wasn’t the French I was used to hearing at school! I felt totally and completely lost and incompetent. Not to mention really, really silly.
Our first week was spent visiting Paris, Brittany and the Loire Valley by coach bus. The second week was spent with host families and going to a high school near Rennes. Although there were many great parts about the trip, like trying cidre for the first time, going to a wild house party with my host brother and wandering the Champs Elysées, there were many times when I was ?uncomfortable and even a bit sad, all because of my level of French. How could I ace French class and then fail so miserably in real-life France?
Plus I didn’t care much for the food. The chantilly was too cheesy-tasting and they put artichokes on their pizzas, for crying out? loud!
Artichokes were not meant to be put on pizzas!
And what’s the worst, France was far from the exciting and glamorous country I had come to idolize since seeing If Looks Could Kill with Richard Grieco.
If only every student’s French trip were this eventful
When we got back home and met up with our parents at the airport, mine asked excitedly if I had had a good time. My response: a big, wailing “NO!”. I probably should have at least tried to sound a bit positive about my experience but it had just been so very different from my expectations that I couldn’t help but be brutally honest.
I was pretty ’down in the dumps’ for quite some time after that and wasn’t even sure if I wanted to continue taking French. I? wondered what the point of it was if I was lousy at it?
Although I had my doubts, I ended up majoring in French in college and spending four months at the Université de Caen Basse Normandie in 2001. It was during this trip that I slowly regained my confidence speaking the language and started enjoying conversing with the natives. It was also during this time that I discovered kebabs – fine French cuisine and college student diet staple.
A lot has changed since 1997 and my first trip to France. I have been living here since 2005, and am now fluent in the language. I can converse with ease, watch TV without a hitch and can even yell at my boyfriend in French. How’s that for fluency!?
And although I still don’t like artichokes on my pizzas, I have gotten used to the food. There are some really tasty dishes! Pig’s feet, cow’s tongue, tripe, brain… Miam miam!
Amber says…”I have been a Francophile since the age of 12, have travelled and lived in France many times and have been living here permanently for 6 years now. It has been an extremely enriching experience that has opened my eyes to a whole new culture and way of life, and although I have come to accept the differences I have with the French, at times I still want to slap them.”
Amber lives in Brest, France. She is an active member of My French Life … If you would like to join our My French Life team (follow us here) of Contributing authors, photographers, interviewers and very talented people who live all around the world, then send us a message info@MyFrenchLife.org