Should not have dropped French at options time at school.
The difference between French class as an adult and as a child is the obvious, apart from the no Twix as a prize at the end of lesson Bingo. The people there actually want to be there and understand, too painfully not just off the ferry that week, that if you want to make it here, you'd better at least try. France didn't beg you to live here, you decided to move, for whatever reasons, and hopefully it's going well. It's going to be much better when you understand what's being said. The room is a classroom setting above the Mairie, there's a white board and the tape recorder to which we'll listen hails from when your teacher first passed her degree forty years ago. The idea is to tune your ear to the way the accent flows and rolls and amid the crackling of the years old tapes you'll get four words out of twenty, that's progress in my book. It's Monday morning and it's 10am. The fellow students are an eclectic mix, mostly older people, half hungover from taking "apero" too far and the cheap wine but all there with a common goal, we will speak this beautiful language, possibly badly but we're there and we're keen. For now, at least. We have the retired engineer, the retired art teacher, the retired policeman, an angry looking woman in a pashmina who asks " places" as she look at the room set up, picks her preferred seat, wipes it and sits down, me and a lady who told us she was cabin crew for BA, but it later emerged she refilled the coffee and croissants in the executive lounge.
There were of course just everyday people, retired, did well in the UK, worked hard and just wanted to enjoy their lives as no longer wage slaves. People do that a lot here, reinvent themselves. On occasion people have asked me why we moved to France, I told them that "It's tricky in the UK when you're living life out on licence". * That's not why we moved to France. Some people have no sense of humour.
You'd think they'd ease you in, but no. The tutor has chosen "Hugo French in Three Months", we had to get this book before lessons began. We sit, we open our books and half haven't even glanced at it ahead of the lesson, possibly one slept with it under their pillow and hoped by the process of osmosis, they'd be fluent in four weeks. "Bonjour tout le monde", not a problem, got that, have neighbours who speak slowly to me because they judge me to incapable of ever being fluent. They're not wrong. We've already been assessed on our ability ahead of the class, and the Professor has decided to adopt the scattergun method, throw enough words at us and some will hit. This might not end well. In fact, it didn't end well, let's look at "Etre" and "Avoir". Students shoot furtive glances towards each other, the thud is the sound of hearts sinking, the sighs are the bitter acceptance that being an avid fan of ""Allo Allo" is going to get you nowhere. I really want bingo for a Twix at this point to eat while watching Eddie Izzard on YouTube doing his stand up routine about leaning to speak French. I'm still trying everyone, I promise. Alice X
* I'll tell you why we moved here another time.