Monday, May 9, 2011

Third Lesson / La Troisième Leçon

Aha! "Troisième" is a word I know, because when I spent Christmas in Paris... goodness, five years ago... I rented a tiny apartment in the third arrondissement for two weeks. The third isn't a particularly interesting place, which I suppose is why it was so cheap Paris-wise, but it was easy walking distance from the first and several other good places. I got to pass the Pompidou anytime I came or went. What could be better? And the apartment was in a building with regular Parisians. Unfortunately, the top of the building burned down while I was there and those regular Parisians were displaced. Les pompiers de Paris, you are splendid.

I had my third lesson--it had been more than two weeks. If you've read the preceding posts, you know I've been kind of glum about what little progress I felt like I was making. But the third lesson went very well indeed; we had limited conversation about the origins of Cinco de Mayo, political news, and my cake-baking methods. There was little structured about the lesson, and my teacher apologized for that and said there would be more structure in the future; I protested that I liked this better. He laughed and agreed that being able to converse was the whole point, but nevertheless, there would be more structure. I know from experience that I do need to be pushed, so that will probably be good for me.

Stay with me for a moment here while I make a comparison. I went through a stage where I didn't like to take medicine. (Most people do. These days I get impatient with people who talk smugly, proudly, or special-snowflakely about how they "never take medicine". Why suffer? Having a headache and not being able to rest or work instead of popping some acetaminophen doesn't make you a better person.) Then I went through a stage where I would take medicine so I wouldn't come off as smug or like I wasn't willing to take the help offered me, but I didn't really believe in it. If I had a bad headache or cramps I would take some painkiller, and then when the pain went away about an hour later I would think to myself "Why did I even bother to take that medicine? If I had only been patient enough to wait an hour, it would have gone away!" It probably sounds silly when someone else says it, but I think that's a common thing to think. I hear it in my patients all the time. "I can't be that sick, I guess, because the pain went away not long after I took whatever medicine that was you gave me!" Yeah, morphine will do that.

So. In the two weeks that I went without having a lesson, I was keeping busy with French. I was reading books, watching dubbed-into-French television, listening to Radio France, and working through LiveMocha. And thinking to myself the whole time... as you can see by my posts... that I was just going through the motions, and nothing I was doing was really going to help me learn French. Then I finally had a lesson, and everything went so well--I was speaking and understanding much, much more French than I had at the previous lesson. And I thought to myself "why did I waste my time reading/watching/listening/working when I was going to do so well at my lesson anyway?".

Right. Clearly I did not waste my time. Having a bunch of different tools at my disposal is definitely important! If I couldn't take lessons for a while... or if I lost my internet connection for a while... or if the county went on strike and the library closed for a while... I would still have resources to continue my French learning.

Aujourd'hui est une journée ensoleillée pour apprendre le français.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed!

    That I consider the most gratifying aspect of doing all sorts of everyday immersion. That moment when you spontaneously or otherwise unprepared dive into a situation which requires the knowledge of the language in question and you just get it. That moment when the language is in the brain and you don't have to make as much of a conscious effort.

    I think it's worth it to suffer through some frustration of making the first painful steps to get to that feeling.