Friday, March 28, 2008


In terms of the language aspect, hat was the hardest part about moving to a foreign-language-speaking country? What would you recommend to us, knowing what you do now?

What did you do over the summer to prepare and retain your language skills? Is there anything you wish you had done prior to leaving?

Did you ever feel like you could speak not a word more of French? What did you do?

How do you recommend tackling the coursework in French—any tips, shortcuts, etc.?

What are a few (5-10) French words or phrases that you did not know upon arrival, or that you had to learn the hard way, that you recommend we be familiar with?


Eric said...

The hardest part about moving here is distancing yourself from your friends in the program to benefit your French. If not distancing yourself, forcing yourself to speak french with each other. Too often students feel more comfortable speaking english with their American friends. I recommend that while here force yourself to be more outgoing

To prepare, i personally spoke french with friends as often as i could. During the summer while hme, i'd say honestly listen to french radio online, pick up a few french books. There's nothing better than speaking though.

After a couple weeks you shouldn't worry about not being able to speak french, you'll adjust very quickly. If you do feel overwhelmed, from my answer from number one you see that really it's not hard to speak english with your friends.

For coursework, re-read all of your texts, re-read all of your notes. Also, if you can read the books on the bibliography for the class in addition to the books on the syllabus. Really don't fall behind, the coursework doesn't seem that demanding, but you need to know the material inside and out.

For this question, i'm really not sure how to answer it, i apologize, there is no hard way of learning. We all say things that have a different sense "beneath the surface" but i can't think of anything specific. One thing to learn is that many normal compliments such as "bien fait" regardless of the tone can be taken as an insult if that helps

Nicole said...

1) I'd recommend practicing, at least a little. Conversation stuff, etc. The hardest part...I might say that the most annoying thing about being here (where it's so tourist-y) is that you really have to continue *trying* to speak in French...they want to speak to you in English. You can explain yourself perfectly but pronounce something a little off, and they'll whip into English-mode and try to "help you out".

2) I didn't do anything, and when I got here, I was so nervous/excited/relieved that I could hardly hold a conversation with the taxi driver. I'd suggest talking to someone, if you have that option, or listening to French radio like Eric said.

3) There have been moments (especially in the first half of the year), when I was so SICK of French and the whole business that I really didn't want to speak another word. You just have to get over it. You're going to be able to speak English - either with program friends or friends you make here who want to practice, or even with an exchange family. It gets better.

Speaking of hating it here around Christmas - I suggest going somewhere, even if you're not going home. I didn't have money for another trip home, but I went to Belgium, and that made all the difference. I came back "home" (here), and was soo glad to see the sun and speak French with the French. I know a few people who didn't leave, and they stayed depressed/upset for a little while longer.

4) Honestly, I'm the worst student in the world. I have a horrible attendance record, I don't read the books for classes, I didn't study one bit for my exams, and I take horrific notes. That being said, I still got a B average last semester, no problem. I wouldn't recommend breaking your back trying to read *everything* on the syllabus, but I would go to class and try to pay attention. It's at least easier than stressing before the ONLY exam that's going to determine your entire grade. UM is nice because your grades don't long as you pass, you'll get the credit, and your GPA will stay the same as it was when you left. I feel bad for the IU and UW students here who are extremely concerned with immediately adapting and working as hard as they can to get A's and B's.

5) Ehh. Even if I tell you these words and phrases, by the time you get here, you're either going to forget, or you're going to make the same mistakes. As long as you don't tell someone to f*ck off, they're going to be pretty forgiving...remember, even if you've got your accent down, they are going to know that you're not one of them, and they can usually tell that you're American after two or three words. They appreciate that you're trying, and they know that you're going to make mistakes. I haven't had any issues with "bad" things that I've said that have gotten me into trouble (probably being female helps a bit...I can just smile and they think it's cute that my French is bad) - more often, I say something that I've translated from English directly into French and have been corrected.

Jonathon Zilber said...

I think initially the hardest part about moving to France was finding an apartment, and doing it in French. The first couple of days I made about 30 phone calls asking about apartments (you can find a listing at the tourism office, without going through an agency who you have to pay a month's rent as a service fee), and the apartments either weren't available or too expensive. It was frustrating not understanding what was being said over the phone, and not being able to speak concisely, but I stuck it out and found one eventually through Students in Aix (not sure if it still exists though), but in any case, the program will help you out.

Over the summer, you should read a couple books and watch some French movies.

I often had a feeling that I wasn't pleased by my progress, but never did I feel that I couldn't speak at all. Remember that even if you think your French is getting worse, it's only because you're becoming better at it, and move perceptive about the things you aren't doing, whereas before you thought it was great but weren't yet at a level to notice certain mistakes. Another thing is once you make the progress, it's yours, and you should be proud. Remind yourself that you speak French because you work hard, and you earned it. Even on a bad day, remember that you are now an individual who can exist in two languages - and that's cool!

Go to class and try to take notes - and read what the professor tells you he's going to go over the next class period. If you're in a literature class, try summarizing chapters after you read them, but certainly do the readings at least. Take classes because you're genuinely interested in them, not because you "might" find them interesting. If you do this, you'll detest the class half-way though.

-Je m'en fous means "I don't give a damn" or even can be more vulgar. Don't say it to people who you shouldn't say it to. Stick to "Ça m'est égal", "peu m'importe" or if you want to give them a laugh, say "Peu me chaut" (it means the same thing). I think its from aristocratic French, only say it when you want your French friends to giggle.
-a leak, in your ceiling or in your faucet, is "une fuite d'eau"
-"à emporter ou sur place" means for here or to go

Unfortunately, more phrases aren't coming to me, but i'll most more when they do.

Sally said...

Really try to read (and understand!) everything that the professor expects. It will make a huge difference to your progress.