I remember my French lessons in secondary school. We started with 'bonjour' and it slowly (or sometimes quickly) descended into chaos from there. I would be designing comic books with my friend Kevin who was a fantastic artist, or listening to the latest tape full of recordings from the radio on our Walkmans. (Yes I said tape! It's hard to remember a life before digital music and downloads). So as you can imagine I didn't learn very much French. I was one of those classic pupils where teachers used to say "you are very bright. If only you would apply yourself, you would do very well." Now that I'm deciding to apply myself to French, I hope their assessment of me was accurate.
After our last trip to France we'd pretty much made up our minds that we would take the big leap and I enrolled on an adult education course to learn Beginners French. I arrived at a local school late one evening and greeted my fellow students as we waited for our tutor to arrive. There was a mixed bunch of people with different reasons for learning French; holiday homeowners, language enthusiasts, regular visitors to France, people working in France, and a couple of genuine Francophiles. Our tutor arrived and we were all ushered into a room where we introduced ourselves. Our tutor was a retired, well-spoken Englishman from a banking background who once lived in France to work. I have to admit, he differed from my original expectations of a French tutor from France who would be speaking to us in French the whole time. Anyway he was a nice enough chap and fluent in French so we began learn.
The lessons were what you would expect from a beginners class. We started with greetings and numbers etc, and then worked our way through different scenarios. It soon became apparent that some members of the group were clearly not beginners and could translate some of the tutor's long testing sentences immediately. This meant us newbies didn't even get a chance to think it through before the answer was given to us, but on the flipside the pace meant you had to learn quickly. As the weeks went on my 'vocabulaire Français' began to increase but I began to dread the words "I may have told you this already" as this was the opening to a 10 minute long anecdote about the tutor’s extravagant life in France which we'd probably heard already. Overall the course was fun despite the tutor’s frequent references to how difficult the French language is to learn, and it did give me a foundation to work from. I don’t think however that this style of learning entirely agrees with me so I won’t be doing that again!
One thing I have learned through all of this is how important it is to keep using the language in order to retain it. I suppose in France I won’t have a choice but for now I will have to dig out my old Walkman and Michel Thomas tapes!
If anyone has any helpful tips or ideas about learning French please let me know.