Learning French II: Anglench or Franglish?

Last night, I attended my very first soiree that my native French-speaking friend and teacher MayaJoelle held at her house. It was an evening of French and a potluck followed by a French movie. It was a well-timed opportunity for me to experience immersion before I really experience immersion. What it showed me is that my dabbling with French since May and mere three lessons with MayaJoelle in the past few weeks have actually been effective. I’m learning to converse!

Granted, I understood about 15% of what was going on around me and probably spoke even less, but I was able to interact, nonetheless. I am proud of myself, but also painfully aware of how much there is yet to learn. It makes me feel like a child. Fortunately, I was in a room full of encouraging adults not overly amused with my slow, stilted, and sometimes grammatically incorrect attempts to speak. I actually constructed some decent sentences and listened for familiar phrases here and there, gathering meaning from gesture, facial expression, and context.

The mind really is an incredible tool, hell-bent on understanding. At one point, I had a rather one-sided conversation about French immigration with someone, and though I didn’t really know what he was saying, whether he was telling me about what I’d be facing or what he was facing, my mind had decided to interpret his words and make meaning from them. I may never know whether my assumption that he was speaking of his own experience was correct.

I was thinking in the car on the ride home in a sort of Anglench…or is it Franglish? It made me think of some of those Bollywood  films where the actors will suddenly throw in an English phrase mid-sentence. I even caught myself thinking, “Je ne sais pas”…as if that was the only way to say, “I don’t know.” Maybe that’s the approach I need to take. In order to get as much practice as I can with what I know, perhaps I should be using as much French as I can in every sentence I speak, using the English when I don’t know the French equivalent.

Another thing I noticed was this weird reflex to throw in Spanish or Italian. I think I said, “Gracie” about three times. After listening to one man share a brief story, I almost blurted out, “Il parles muy bein francais!” Fortunately, someone else spoke first. The fact that I’m going on a spiritual journey to Mexico in a couple of weeks is NOT going to help matters! Of course, there, I’ll probably be speaking some kind of Spananglich. Frenishlench?

 

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Where to Land Continued: France

Since my husband lives in France and is self-employed there, it would seem entirely logical for me to relocate there. There are many reasons to go this route and just as many not to, so in order to sort it out, I commence…

First of all, France has a relatively easy process for the non-EU spouse of an EU citizen. I just show up and then apply for my Cart de Sejour, or residency card, within 3 months. No long, complicated forms to fill out beforehand. No 6 – 12 months waiting to reunite. Obviously, this is a HUGE plus.

On the more intuitive side of things, several months before meeting my husband, I was telling people how much I wanted to visit France. You see, a couple of years ago, I had a dream I was riding in a cab in Paris, my face pressed against the glass as I looked up at the buildings in awe exclaiming, “I’m home!”

Then, one day in my kitchen a few months before meeting Stuart, I was chopping carrots and thought, “Wow, I’m moving to France. I don’t know how. I don’t know when. But it is going to happen.” And now, here’s this opportunity to realize all of that.

“So, get thee to France!” you may be saying.

There are some negatives to consider. First of all, I don’t speak the language. While I have a good ear for French pronunciation, I remember very little from my two years in high school many years ago. “So what?” you may think. “Learn it.”

I could and am (Memrise), but it will take me several years to become really fluent. Oh, and I’ve forgotten to mention, though my husband has lived there several years, he doesn’t really speak it either! I’ve already come to learn he would be little help in that department (sorry, Honey).

Now, every document, every food label, every piece of mail we receive, every road sign will be in French. And if important papers are not in French, they will need to be translated…such as my birth certificate and marriage license. That is a daunting challenge, though one that excites me all the same. Living in a country where I just don’t understand anything is a spiritual-growth playground for undoing my mind! I guess that makes it a plus and a minus and therefore, the issue of language is cancelled out.

Another negative is obtaining my French driver’s license. Apparently, this is no easy task for an American. The test is in French, requires lots of class time, costs a small fortune, and has an absurdly low passing rate. This is definitely a negative. I’ll write more about this another time, as there is more to this issue.

Positives:

  • I’ll be with my Honey!!!
  • It’s sunny and beautiful.
  • The pace of life is poifect!
  • The most beautiful beaches anywhere are close by.
  • It’s easy to travel to wonderful places such as Italy, Switzerland, Spain…and even the UK (though I would need either a visitor visa or EU Family Permit to go there).
  • Rents…and eventually houses…are more affordable there than, say, the UK (but I have a house in the US with a very affordable mortgage that can’t be beat).

Negatives:

  • While I can work online from anywhere doing what I do, I will undoubtably lose some clients who prefer in-person work, and I won’t be able to get new clients there or teach workshops unless I find English-speaking participants.
  • Working with my current musical and vocal toning collaborators will be greatly impacted.
  • Stuart’s current living arrangement is a rather rustic space in the middle of nowhere (though he is very willing to move closer to a bigger city such as Cognac).
  • The bio shops are teeny and carry very little selection at a hefty price; in fact, the grocery stores we went to were rather sad. Here I am in Asheville, NC, a mecca of whole foods including two EarthFares, a co-op, Greenlife, and most recently, Trader Joe’s. That won’t be an easy adjustment.

I know there’s more, but my head is already turning to cotton, so I’ll continue another day…