This has probably been on my list of things I wanted to do for many years, at least since my first holiday in France, which is easily over a decade ago. Between then and now, I’ve travelled back to France frequently, however like with most things, if you don’t keep practising, you eventually lose the skills and what you’ve learned.
With this in mind, last year with my trip to Paris on the horizon I set out to discover the best way of making a head start to learn the language, so ideally I would be able to speak when I got there. I bought a CD course, a variety of books and dictionaries, met up with the friend of a friend who was French and wanted to practice English in return for helping with my French, and then I moved to Paris. Where I realised I didn’t know nearly enough and hadn’t put in anywhere near the amount of hours of study; apparently you need to have studied for 600 hours in order to profess fluency in a language!!
All of this made it more difficult to practice, no-one relishes the feeling of ineptitude and in addition to that, most of the people I met in Paris, spoke really good English which made it all the more challenging. It seemed whenever I started to speak in French, they would recognise I was English and switch to that language. Admittedly when you’re being briefly serviced in a shop its a lot easier and not worth struggling on in French when the conversation will be over in a few short sentences. However it was turning out to be incredibly frustrating, I was firmly in the middle of the stage of learning where you are consciously incompetent and I wasn’t liking it!!! Never more have did I lament the fact that in school I was taught German rather than French.
So I started listening to the news, practising more on my own and eventually I hired a French tutor for weekly sessions which I have to say was invaluable. Not least with helping with pronunciation. Also the friends I met in Paris were happy to teach me, one in particular spent time going through conjugated verbs and past participles until it started sinking in. I also starting to understand a fair amount of what was said to me and even though I wasn’t replying as fully as I would if I was conversing in English, at least I started to feel like I belonged.
When I returned to England just before Christmas, I decided to continue with my French teacher so I have the opportunity to learn and to practice. All of this helps, however the best thing is booking dates in to go back to Paris on a regular basis, which for me isn’t exactly a hardship!!