Oui, that’s five hours of French, for my English-only readers. That was my Friday, and it was great! Yesterday marked two weeks to the day since the end of my course at the Institut, and while I’ve been reading, watching movies, and doing my grammar exercises, there’s no substitute for speaking French. I was fortunate to find some willing Francophones to spend time chatting with me (and correcting me!).
Victim #1 is a lovely Swiss woman who I met through mutual friends. I see her and her husband every year at our friends’ 4th of July party, and this year, since I had just returned from France, she offered to meet up for some conversation. We spent a lovely afternoon at the Museum of Fine Arts, talking about the Samurai exhibit, her travels in Asia, my experience in France, and her sweet 3-month old son, who joined us for the afternoon.
(For Boston-area folks, the Highland Street Foundation is providing Free Fun Fridays all summer, with free admission to 6 different museums and cultural centers throughout Massachusetts every week. Check out the schedule and go!)
After the MFA, it was on to Cambridge, to meet an Iranian-Canadian MIT student who I had found on Conversation Exchange. I recommend checking out the site to find conversation partners near you. You can meet in person or via Skype. If you’re feeling retro, or just need to work on your writing skills, you can even find a pen-pal and write letters. It’s a global site, it’s free, and it’s easy to set up a profile, so you’ve got no excuse.
Both of my conversation partners were helpful, patient, and very supportive. My most frequent error (and my fellow Institut-goers will sympathize) was continuing to “vouvoyez” after I should have started to “tutoyer”. I chalk that up to the Institut’s insistence that we use only the “vous” form. And better to be too formal than to run the risk of insulting someone by being too familiar, right?
There were a few of those deer-in-headlight moments where I had to puzzle out what had been said and respond appropriately, but those moments keep me on my toes and keep my listening skills sharp. Overall, it was great to hear and speak French again, and for a sustained amount of time. Like I said, there’s no substitute for live and spontaneous conversation. And it’s easier to find than you might think, so get out there and keep talking!