How are our studies coming along? Glad you asked…
Currently I am working until seasons end for the canal boat company France Afloat. As I work, I listen to ‘French with Michel Tomas’ CD’s downloaded to my iPhone. It has given me confidence to talk to Sylvie my French co-worker who speaks zero English. I find Michel’s approach clear, as he builds off simple words and makes sentences. He uses English reference points and memory tricks to help his students along. My favourite part is no pencil and paper, everything is from memory.
Alfonz is studying for his Hungarian motorcycle and car licenses at the same time. They took 80 of the hardest test question and gave it to the instructors as a surprise quiz to test out how hard the test really was after thousands of complaints, and nearly all failed. The test designed to trick you, with double negatives and play on words. Ninety % of people fail the test the first time, and have to retake the whole course again to rewrite. It may be a money grab, but apparently similar to the French driver’s license exam. Here is the thing. It is not supposed to be a language comprehension test on your ability to maneuver through difficult questions but a test to see if you can drive a car. Has something gone a stray?
It reminds me of the UBC realtors licence exam I took back in 2001. It too designed and worded in a way that tried to trick the student. I met the lovely man that wrote this set of tests, and he said it was to keep the less intelligent people out. I said no, to keep academic people in. Eventually they divided the test into 3 sections, Property Managers, Mortgage Brokers and Real Estate and made the wording more general. It is far easier now and you do not have to take all three to sell property any longer.
Daniel is cramming for his first term finals, and is probably writing his test as I blog. This means we are learning grammar and spelling at the same time along side my little man while we try our hardest to help him with his homework. He comes home from school, and spends hours bashing out each word he did not understand from the day. We find the same type of tests online with English instruction, and then we test and retest until he has it down pat. Our lovely neighbour came over to help us out a few times when my frustration levels were through the roof. If only I were more patient with Daniel but we are so much alike and question everything.
It is a lot of staying in one place for my boy, who is used to having free roam of a Montessori classroom. The amount of work and the amount of growth this boy has experienced over the last year is phenomenal. So far each test has come back to us perfect, but Daniel assures me yesterdays orthography test will have a few flaws, him visible distraught as he told us the news. I asked him, ‘Did you do your best?’ He said, ‘Yes’ ‘Then that is all we can ask of you.’ I fill with pride when I look at this special boy’s determination.
Angelina has started modern jazz at the local ‘Foyer’ or recreation centre, along with some very cute little girls from her class. They are all girlie girls, hold hands, and giggle and whisper incessantly. Her biggest pastime is changing her clothes, putting on play make-up, and singing and dancing in front of the mirror. She has managed to pick up a French accent and now when she speaks English you can here e-ver-y sin-gle syl-lab-le, including the last one that does not belong- an extra e sound.
Last week she had a sleep over at her friends house that lives in a giant vineyard. They have pets, and space to run around, a big playhouse, and loads of kids everywhere. She spends time with French families as if she has lived here her entire life. She has had the easiest adjustment to living in France.
The kids are speaking French with ease, as is Alfonz. Over the last few weeks, I have finally started to talk French. The words are lining up in sentences in my head before I open my mouth to speak. Why did it take me so long? I have no idea, but I am simply grateful that I can speak at all. Been able to read for a while now, maybe I just needed time.
After parents asking us, on many occasions, to teach their children, from Daniel and Angelina’s class, some conversational English out of our home, we are now seriously considering it. The lady that is currently teaching in our village would love for us to take over, as she now has a full-time job. I have looked in to an online certification course designed to specifically teach children and we can certify in about a week. The course comes with access to downloadable worksheets, taking the ‘what’s next?’ question out of the equation and we would follow a sequence of lessons in the curriculum given.
The French families we have encountered are more interested in native English speakers to help their children through their homework, and not particularly a teacher as I assumed. A mother, just like me, from the UK used to teach some of my French friend’s children but has moved back home. We start our first tutoring day, with three children the first week of November.
Lastly, once we are officially part of the community and in the system, France offers all new comers free French lessons. I have applied for CAF nearly 2 weeks ago, and have not heard back, which usually means we are being processed. Slowly we assimilate to our new country, our new language being our biggest obstacle. Everything will eventually fall into place we just have to stay true to the idea that it will. We stay positive. Drink wine. And remain calm.