Learning to speak French

April 5, 2018

Arriving in Switzerland two years ago, my husband gradually introduced me to all his friends. Some of them aren't French-speaking natives. One of my favourite questions to ask was "how long did you take to learn French?"


The answer varies, but the average answer is less than one year


At that time, I didn't know any French word. Okay, maybe bonjour, oui and je t'aime; to be fair. Optimistic and naive, I told myself, if they can do it in one year, why cant I?


I enrolled in an intensive DELF (Diplôme d’études en langue française) A1 French Course just at the second week of my arrival. It was a 20 hours lesson per week starting at 830am until noon, five days a week for 11 weeks. After almost 7 years operating independently as my own boss and not attached to any fixed schedule, I found attending school at 830am to be quite... daunting. 


So daunting that one of our earliest memories as husband and wife was running our lungs out to the train station every morning. 


"I have never ran this much in my suit until I marry you" he said once.


6 weeks into French beginners course: One of my earliest attempt to write in French without referring to notes or dictionary. Embarrassing but oh well, it is part of my journey 


There were seven of us in the class and five of us passed the exam, me included. We were encouraged to continue to A2 level but I couldn't commit for another 11 weeks, given my busy timeline. I had friends visiting, another wedding and a honeymoon to plan.  


Alternatively, I chose to attend a 3 weeks French summer course at the University of Lausanne. To my surprise (and honestly, to a tiny little ego-boost), the placement test revealed that my level was B1. My class at the university was a blast! Like the short films of Learning English through Comedy, except the class setting is in French and we don't have douchebags making sexist and racist jokes. I made few acquaintances from different nationalities, ages and backgrounds and it was such a great feeling knowing I was not alone in this journey. 


Fast forward to end of September 2016. 


We just returned from honeymoon when my husband announced it was time for serious life. I took his words literally and seriously started materializing my yoga project. I gave my first yoga lesson on a cold rainy November night and I was planning to get back to my DELF A2 once I manage to build my class AND once the weather gets better.


I did not realize by then that my plan was unrealistic. 


In January 2017, I welcomed the new year with pregnancy news and by all honesty, being pregnant for the first time alone in a foreign land speaking foreign language away from anything and anyone familiar has been quite an unnerving experience. My French aspirations have taken a turn for the worse. Pregnancy brain or not, I didn't have the gusto to continue with my part-time French Conversation B1 Class and called it a quit just after 2 sessions. 


To conclude, in two years, I have attended 14 weeks of formal French lesson from mid April to July 2016 plus 2 hours conversation class (if it counts) and for any reason, I haven't given a single thought of returning...


Until an incident last week, which I will refer to as the Starbucks Incident


To be continued in Part 2..




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