Six mois jusqu’à Paris (Six months until Paris)
I was reading a book yesterday about a woman who moved to France for a couple of years. She stated that although she increased her speaking of French greatly, it was not that great at all. I do not want to live in a country like France and not be able to speak or listen, read or write French! I would miss out on so, so much. The book also got me to thinking about how the first question I am asked once a person knows I plan to move to France. It is invariably, "Do you speak French?" Well the short answer is yes I do but the long answer is that it depends on many factors. The main thing thing I do know is that it is a very different thing to be able to speak a language such as French as opposed to being fluent. Fluency must involve all four language factors - Writing, Speaking, Listening, and Reading. Many people who say they are fluent in a language such as French, or programs that say you can be fluent quickly ('I can speak 25 languages!', 'Learn French in 30 days!') actually mean that they speak enough general French (in this case) to comfortably live in France. Speaking, by itself, however is not fluency. Fluency involves all four factors of language. I am much more advanced at reading in French than listening, for example. Because I love words, it is fun for me to read French and look up new words (yes, truly fun!). Learning to listen well requires me to listen to movies, recordings, French radio, and my tutor. I find it far more difficult. Listening skills take a lot of repetitive work and understanding context of the words. In my opinion, writing requires a tutor to correct your work. It is far too easy to make verb tense conjugation and other spelling and grammar errors. In fact, writing issues are the main reason people come to me for ESL and iELTS tutoring. Speaking of course requires another speaker of French. While there are a much larger number of French natives running around Melbourne now, I'm still heavily reliant on my tutor for speaking practice (mainly because I want to be corrected when I make errors). Even though it is only day 2 of my retreat week, I have realised very quickly (what I already knew but pretended was not true) that learning French is going to have to be my priority each day for the next six months. Not just an hour or so each day (or two). Everything else has to be of lesser importance. Or else I'm going to be wandering around Paris/France missing out on everyday experiences, all because I didn't learn the language of the country I moved to.