Today I dropped by my French teacher's store to tell him I had to reschedule our lesson, which was meant to be tomorrow. He spoke to me in French. I didn't understand. At least, not well enough.
I was frustrated, and I think he was disappointed. I think given a few moments, I COULD have understood him; I got the gist of some of what he was saying, but then, I knew what I expected him to say. But there's a big difference between understanding the general gist and making actual plans that we both need to be on the same page with.
I'm expecting too much, maybe. I've only actually had two lessons, and the last one was almost two weeks ago; my teacher had to cancel two lessons, and I've been working a lot. I've been working on French at home some, of course. But there's another place where there's a big difference: the pleasure I feel at recognizing some words and even understanding some of a Radio France broadcast, and having a coherent conversation with someone.
I read several language blogs, and none of them seem to talk about this stage much. Maybe because it doesn't make good copy. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, sure. But there is a time when speech is paralyzed because there just isn't enough to say yet. It may be longer for some people than others, and it may be brief when we already speak a related language (though I still haven't decided if that's a help or a hindrance for me). But I think it's always there. It's difficult to read the blogs of people for whom it might as well not exist; yet this is, I think an important time to blog about. I'm sure most language-learning endeavors end here.
I miss the immersion environments where I learned Italian and Spanish and some of what little Portuguese I know. Where just going to the drugstore is an exercise in language-learning. Two weeks in Brazil, a small amount of study and correspondence at home, and a few more days in Brazil several months later, and I was able to ask questions in Portuguese in a Brazilian drugstore and get the things I needed.
Yet I can't even understand my French teacher when he tells me we can meet on Thursday at 1700.
I WANT to speak French with at least some fluidity. I am not speaking French with any fluidity at all. It's very difficult when what we want doesn't match what we do.
It's difficult to start over with each language, to remember that with each one--I remember specific times in Italy and Brazil, anyway--there's a time when I want to cry with frustration at not being able to understand or be understood.
Well, I've been trying to keep busy during these two weeks off from lessons, in the following ways: LiveMocha, children's books, youtube videos, Radio France. These things will all get their own posts, eventually.
Publié sous un nuage gris.