The wonderful Hostel 20 is a hub of different nationalities, and while this is an absolute blessing when it comes to chatting over dinner and getting to know folk, it sadly means that the English language dominates most conversations.
To try and remedy this for myself, I’ve compiled a short list of things I thought would push me to speak, or at least learn, a little French.
Go to the Tourist Information and pretend to be interested in something
Something my mum suggested, and something which proved to work very well. I went to the Tourist Information Office and asked for details about the first thing that came into my head: the opera. I have never been to an opera in my life. If I have, regretfully it was not significant enough for me to remember.
So I chatted in positively appalling French to this man for a while about going to see an opera show in Bordeaux, and he was in fact very informative on the subject. Had I understood what he was saying to me, I might have been able to recall it here. But it got me into a French conversation with a French native so I called it a win. If this is my road to fluency, I’m very happy to go back there and pretend to be interested in other random activities.
Over dinner, I was chatting to a girl from Indonesia, Ireka, who told me that all the museums in Bordeaux open their doors for free on the first Sunday on every month. We decided to go and visit a few the next day and I said I’d be keen to see a modern art gallery if there was one. Ireka said she hated modern art, but seemed very happy to show me around the museum, which happened to be in the coolest building. It was a long day of walking and trying to understand museum information boards, but I came away with a substantial list of new vocabulary, feeling particularly cultured also.
Talking on the phone in the hostel
My receptionist duties at the hostel include answering the phone in French, and however nerve wracking this is, a few times I’ve been handed the little Nokia brick and given the responsibility to answer it, should it ring. The first time this happened, I royally freaked out and practically threw the thing at my supervisor after listening to a woman spiel in French on the other end of the line. But I have now managed to hold (what I thought) was a successful conversation in French on the phone, so things can only progress from here.
Language Exchange Evenings
This might be the most terrifying thing I’ve done to date but it was pretty awesome at the same time. These events involve talking to a native French speaker for 7 minutes in French and then 7 minutes in English, before you move onto another table. The concept of this was rather intimidating, but I figured I’m already so far out of my comfort zone here so may as well go for it. They may have been the longest 7 minutes of my life but I surprised myself by how much I actually know when I’m in the deep end, or in the ocean for that matter. I met some great people, a couple of whom I agreed to meet up with again to practise our languages.
This is on my agenda to do, but I have not yet gotten round to it. Walking tours seem to be a wonderful way of seeing the major parts of the city, learning interesting facts about them whilst also being exposed to the French language. More often than not they’re free as well, so I’m fully on board. It’s tricky to find tours that are completely in French though, because most of the people who want to do them are English-speaking tourists. I’ve found a few which may be useful however, so I could well be spending the next four weeks walking around the same route but listening to French tour guides as I go…
It may have become evident that I’ve been on a quest to find as many ways of engaging in French conversation as I can, or rather, how far out of my comfort zone I can go before I physically implode. So far I would deem it a success, and I’m sure my search will continue as I make the slow plod towards French fluency…
Watch this space…