Fluent In Franglais/Je Ne Comprends Pas/How I Managed To Survive Six Months In France On A Diet Of English
Before I came to France, I’ll be honest and admit that I could basically say “Hi, I’m Georgia. I’m sixteen and from Australia.” I expected I’d improve rapidly and be fluent, or close to, by the time I got home. At camp, though I spoke English the entire time, I promised myself as soon as I got to my host family and town I’d be speaking French and ignoring English completely.
That all went down the drain when I realised two things:
1. French is hard.
2. The American (and eventually Canadian) exchange students at my school were a lot easier and nicer to hang out with than the actual Frenchies.
Don’t get me wrong, I did try to learn French and improved a crazy amount, just in my day-to-day life and friendship I found staying in English was easier. Alright, I can hear you judging me from here, but until you’ve been an exchange student to a non-English speaking country and are faced with the decision, well, you just wouldn’t get it. But I promise that every single one of you would go the same path as I did. You can sit there and pretend to be all high and mighty and think to yourself that you would have just shunned the other Exchange Students and immersed yourself in French but you wouldn’t have. Believe me. Two years ago a couple of kids at my school went to adjoining towns in Austria on exchange and ended up only making friends with each other and a Canadian and then came home with minimal German. I heard about it and ranted about how it was a waste of time and that I would never ever do anything like that. I just didn’t get it until I was in the same situation as they had found themselves in and realised that it was impossible not to.
Of course, when you’re in a country and then choose not to speak the language for a fair chunk of your day, people are not going to be happy. I’ll be honest in admitting my lack of extreme progress contributed to the downfall of my host families and in hindsight, yes I could/should have tried harder. But that’s the thing about hindsight, you only realise it once it’s too late.
The other thing is that the Frenchies love to practice their English, to the point where as soon as they hear your accent they’ll almost point blank refuse to speak French and just want to test their English skills on you. Sure this is fun and good when your brain doesn’t feel like translating, but after a while it gets slightly frustrating as yes, their English is being helped, but your French definitely isn’t.
Whilst fluency would have been a nice added bonus to this exchange, I’m personally much happier with the fact I now have friends from all over the world. My French improved so much in the six months I was there, and that’s all I ever asked for. My opportunities to learn French didn’t stop when I hit Australian soil. The opportunities to make amazing Exchange Friends did. I made my decision and despite everyone else’s opinions, I don’t regret a second of it.
frangipani princess xoxo