Monday, September 8, 2008

Back To School

I have come to realize that my thirst for knowledge is endless.  I am not parched for lofty, complicated, large scale information like say, the theory of relativity.  That would leave me cross eyed and frustrated (by my inability to understand it!).  The knowledge that I seek is on a smaller scale; the books on my bedside table are more often than not non-fiction, speaking to a topic that has caught my attention and I want to know more about it.  Lately, it has been the perfume industry, neuroscience and memory or the business of luxury and how it is evolving into something other than what it has been and why the evolution.  Travel essays that take me to places I haven't been are another source of education for me--either I hope to get there or know I might not but have spent some time in a place seeing it through someone else's eyes.  

Being in Chicago has opened doors to all sorts of classes that I can take advantage of--cooking at Sur La Table just around the corner, seminars at the Art Institute that my daughter has introduced me to and starting today, twice weekly French conversation classes at Alliance Française.  I can't tell you how excited I am to get back into learning French.

Living in Paris for a year, one would think my grasp of the language would have been complete. I can read it with no problem, understand about 90% of what is spoken to me (making for some interesting misunderstandings where the other 10% is concerned) but alas, when it comes to speaking, my brain and my mouth act as though they have never met and I sound like I have swallowed a bunch of marbles.  And of course I panic trying to remember gender--is it masculine or feminine and conjugating verbs--well, forget it.   

So the terror will set in this afternoon as I put myself out there among others who love the French language as much as I and want to be able to pull off having a conversation in what I feel is the most poetic way of speaking in the world.  I feel as though the language fairies are on my side.  A new family just moved in next door to me--a family of four who have just been transferred to Chicago from the 15th arrondissement in Paris.  The boys, about 8 and 11 years old offered to help me in my education and have promised to speak to me only in French, correcting my mistakes as we go along.  I think it's all meant to be!!

Photo credit:  Avolore@flickr, Renee!@flickr


Anonymous said...

bonne chance chere tante. Tu seras sans doute merveilleuse et j'attends avec plaisir la journee ou tu ecriras ton blog en francais. Si seuleument pour une fois. Good luck! ~Leanne

Phivos Nicolaides said...

Kim don't remind teachers like my wife Popi, to go back to school!

Chubbs said...


Ma soeur a volé mon idée de laisser un message en français, mais je le fais quand même, pour continuer à te mettre à l'épreuve.

France (mon épouse, pas le pays, haha) et moi avons hâte au jour où nous visiterons enfin Paris, peut-être même avec notre propre guide privée qui pourra nous en dire long sur tous les secrets cachés de la ville.

If you really want to be put to the test, might I suggest that you give my father a ring? Dude will talk you ear off!

Encore une fois, bonne chance, et bravo d'avoir le courage de pousser ta compréhension de la langue française plus loin.

Kim said...

Je peux être votre guide privé si vous voulez parce que j"ai habité à Paris et je le connais assez bien. C'est magnifique. Mon cours était bien. J'ai du travail à faire mais je l'aime beaucoup!!

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Bon Courage..:)

The Antiques Diva™ said...

Bonne Chance Kim!

Regarding gender, during my first year living in Paris my French teacher told me, "For now memorize gender for all the words you learn, but someday you will intuitively know a new words gender. There is no way to teach you how to always determine which it will be - but one day it will click."

Flash forward 3 years, I had just had a long conversation in French in my favorite Paris wine shop La Dernière Goutte (6eme) and I realized that I hadn't been corrected once on gender in the half hour of intense debate over the best way to cook Lapin à la Moutarde. Usually a conversation of similar length was riddled with gender corrections. For some reason, that was the day "it clicked" and I've rarely had problems since.

My cognitive mind still doesn't understand it - but intuitively I do! And so will you!

Another thing I wanted to tell you was that the best best thing I did in learning in French was to tutor French twins age 11 (until they were 14) in English. We would howl with laughter over the words I taught them, and they me! While adults would politely listen to my pathetic accent, the children NEVER would! They corrected my French every chance they got. Our lessons were always a combination of "franglais" - and I learned more from them than I ever did in a classroom, with a teacher or in my conversation group! Sometimes I left them thinking, "Oh bugger, I can't say word right!" but now, every time I'm complimented on my French I give credit where credit is due.

Use your neighbor boys Kim!

The Antiques Diva

Kim said...

Antiques Diva
Thank you for that. Last night I struggled through my homework thinking this is never going to work. Of course, I am being very impatient with myself--nothing worth having happens overnight as they say. Your encouragement and insight into "intuitively" having the language find a home in one's brain is so helpful!!