Friday, March 3rd was my last day at my 9-5, and on Mardi, le 7 mars, I began my French Immersion program in Montreal! I've included the week's highlights at the end.
To be honest, you don't need to know French to get by in Montreal. Paige has lived and worked here for almost two years without needing to use it, although she does have a basic knowledge of it. She took French Immersion for 8 years.
Westmount (where she works), Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (where we live) and the downtown core (where I worked) are all pretty much English speaking.
When I do speak French while running errands, the person automatically switches to English upon hearing my accent. Not fun!
Even some people who were born in Montreal do not speak French yet. Crazy!
But if you want more options in terms of employment, or if you want to live beyond the English speaking areas, or if you're like me and you want to reestablish your business in Quebec, the ability to converse in French is essential.
It's also a sign of respect towards your new city and province.
We should always make an effort, no matter where we visit or live, to learn the language and the ways of the culture we find ourselves immersed in.
Gratefully, I took French all the way up to university but that was a looong time ago and it's not like we ever used it beyond the classroom so I'm just hoping that what I did learn will come flooding back to me soon enough.
MY FIRST WEEK
(Ma première semaine)
I'm in a school that's over 100 years old in the beautiful Plateau-Mont Royal. So dreamy!
Walking the side streets always makes me feel like I'm on a movie set. It's like a dream world. Tiny streets, century old architecture, no signs of the modern world in the little area near our school.
But just one street over you'll find a Starbucks and the main strip with endless shops that transport you right back to our present time.
The French Immersion program is two months long and I'm in Level 1/2 in the mornings and a Level 1/2/3 split in the afternoon. There are a number of levels (8, I think) and they each are two months except for Level 1 which is only two weeks so the we can learn and/or relearn the basics of French before really getting started.
My first week was wonderful! Here were some highlights:
The curriculum that we are using is brand-new throughout all of Quebec and is used for all the languages that are taught here. The first level lasts two weeks and it is a learning and a relearning of the basics. Then in level 2 things get more challenging. It lasts 7 weeks.
Our morning instructor does not have a very thick accent so it is much easier for me to understand her than our afternoon one. She has taught in Montreal and Quebec City and in Sherbrooke over the past 18 years. About 95% of what she says is spoken in French but she does speak slowly and that helps me to pick it up more easily.
In the morning class she changes our seat each day using our name cards so that we can benefit from learning from and helping one another instead of naturally gravitating to those who speak our native language. There are three women who speak Chinese and no English, and some others speak languages that I can't quite pinpoint yet based solely on their accent.
In the morning class there are a few of us from Ontario - KW and Toronto - and it's always nice to talk about home. In the afternoon class there are a few from Vancouver.
"I posted that many long times." Me unsuccessfully trying to speak to Paige one night. We laughed at me sounding like English is my second language. I also got my words jumbled while talking to Melanie on the phone that same evening. I'm thinking in French but speaking in English. I've got two worlds colliding in my head which is awesome and strange.
In the afternoon class especially, we are not allowed to speak English at all, nor does she use English with us. She also warned us not to translate for our classmates because they will become dependent on our translations. She is very strict but also super fun and animated. She makes me laugh as much as she scares me to be quite honest. I'm not altogether sure how much I will learn in the afternoon class given that I barely understand what she says 95% of the time (there are 3 levels in this class), and she doesn't use the chalkboard to spell things out very much which is done in abundance in the morning class and then everything makes perfect sense to me. When I can see it, I understand it. When I hear it and it is fast and with a strong accent, I struggle to comprehend. Regardless, I love the challenge. And I can't think of a better way to spend my weekdays
My afternoon French teacher calls me "Chat Chat" because I wore my kitty hat to school and she complimented me on it. I actually got a number of compliments on my hat throughout the day, and all were in French and a few asked me where I got it. So then I had to answer in French and was quite pleased that I used the word "cadeau" for the first time in I don't know how many years. Maybe 20!?
When all you hear is French around you, it is so much easier to slip into French yourself. I can't believe how much I remember now that I have a place to use it!
My teacher also asked me in French if I was wearing my hat because I was cold, and so I had to let her know in French that it's because I like to look cute and because I love cats. This made her laugh which made me smile. And when I told her that I had three cats, her eyes went big!
When we were partnered up to do an exercise in the afternoon class (she matches level 1s with level 3s), the fella was surprised to find out I was in level 1 based on how well I was doing with the number exercise and how well I was pronouncing them. This made me feel so proud because I conquered my mixups with the 4s (quatre et quarante - only in speaking) from the day before. Practice makes perfect! All of the numbers now make sense to me from 0 to 100 like they did way back when and that feels good. With some of them I do need to take time to figure it out in my head but once I do, I say them correctly. YAY!
As the week went on, I understood much more of what my afternoon teacher was saying. I pay attention to her so intently to find any words that sound familiar to me. I do love that she is adamant that the level 3s do not translate for us or try to give hints if we are silent. She reminded them that because we are learning a new language, it takes time in our head to sort it out. So our silence doesn't mean we won't figure it out, it just means were switching gears and taking time to process. So I was glad my partner was patient because I eventually sorted each thing out on my own. Just not right away. All the 3s were there at some point so I imagine that's why they're so patient.
Today I took a leap and asked a challenging question in the afternoon class knowing full well that I didn't know more than a third of the words I needed to get my idea across. But I wanted to see how far I could get, and it took a bit of time, and with a little bit of help from a few classmates that chimed in, my idea was expressed and our teacher answered in a way that made us all laugh. I didn't understand everything she said in response to my question, but I got the gist of it. This made me feel wonderful. I love learning more and more each day!
I ANSWERED MY PHONE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FRENCH!!!! It was a Montreal number that popped up, and I didn't know who it was at first but I picked it up and spoke French right away! It was Paige's eye doctor reminding her of an appointment coming up. I didn't have the full conversation in French, but I loved knowing that soon I'll be able to.
There is one thing I want to master more than anything in this class right now, and that's the "R" sound. Mine still sounds like "air" because it's missing the throaty part. I envy my classmates who annunciate it properly. I am not there yet but Paige assures me I will be soon enough. She can't annunciate it either yet.
I am OBSESSED with DuoLingo and use it a few hours each day now! You should use it, too!
I can't wait for week 2!
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