This week I had one of those moments where I suddenly felt all those weeks of French lessons, all the headaches, all the hours spent feeling like my head was going to explode, are beginning to pay off. The occasion was a meal at the home of some French friends. They are a lovely couple, who are interesting and interested in the world around them. Now retired, they were teachers and have travelled extensively. They also speak very good, clear French and are prepared to be patient with people who are making an effort to communicate.
When we go out with English friends Ian is normally the quieter of the two of us, preferring to limit his discussions to technical bits and pieces. I have always enjoyed a more in depth debate about things and the ability to be able to do more than just talk, but to express my ideas, ask questions and discuss current issues, is really important to me. My aim for my French was to be able to speak it well enough that I was able also to express a little of my personality and humour. Up until now, although I have been able to get by in most everyday situations this aspect has alluded me and when we are out with French people Ian has taken the lead in conversation, with me chipping in, if and when I was able to follow what was being said.
My French had sort of reached a plateau over the past year or so and I hadn't felt I had made much improvement. Fortunately I found a new more advanced class and got back into the studying in September. I hadn't really noticed much progress for a while but last week I spent three days in Bordeaux and suddenly found that I didn't have to think all the time to communicate and that I could make jokes with the students in French that made them laugh (and not just because of my accent!) The meal last week marked a turning point as for the first time Ian was silenced and I was able to talk!
For anyone who thinks that you can come to France and 'be fluent in two years'.. it's taken me 6 years of lessons to get this far!