What this place is doing to my expectations, you have no idea. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic. Last night and this morning I was really freaking out, and I was not exactly looking forward to the placement tests. It was with a keen sense of discomfort that I discovered how far ahead of me most people are. It gets really embarrassing when you’re listening to two dormmates speak in English like this:
“So what do you do to conjugate and subjugate that present past imperfective [French word hitherto unbeknownst to me] in conversation? Are they going to be strict about that?”
“Well, I just usually use the transitory perfective, but sometimes in class the professors would be really strict about that and say that you must use [another French word meaning about as much to me as Paris Hilton to an extraterrestrial].”
And at that point you try not to notice that one girl’s French-English dictionary is a lot newer and shinier than yours, which you grabbed off your bedroom shelf at the last possible moment before leaving, being careful to extract it cleanly from the surrounding cobwebs.
It’s fair to say that I wasn’t totally prepared for an experience like this. I didn’t think the living situation would be a big deal, but I find the huge crowds in the cafeteria to be incredibly awkward – and this is while we’re still speaking English! One reason I never ate much at the Dockside at Saint Mary’s is because I always looked like a noob, and I tended to stand in the middle of the place looking forlornly at other students and wishing I understood things as well as they did. And then you wonder if they wonder if you’re just there to stare at them, and ugh ugh ugh!
Thank God I’m living with other 25-year-olds, though. They’ve been really great so far, and I think if I continue to think carefully and pay attention, I’ll be okay.
There’s a growing consensus afoot that we’ll be taking our showers in the evenings instead of the mornings. I was up and in the shower at 6:45 to avoid the rush, but it wasn’t enough – reportedly, at 6:30 there was still hot water and some water pressure – for me, there was a little bit to begin with, and by the end of things I was cupping my hands underneath the tub faucet (there wasn’t enough pressure for anything to come out of the showerhead), and throwing little splashes over me in an attempt to rinse off the soap. We’re wondering what the heck students do here in the fall and winter.
Anyway, the tests today were a humbling experience. The written test was the worst, because we had a whole hour to do it, and it took me about that long to figure out how to narrate a picture story about a man who sinks his ship and is rescued by a woman walking along the beach when the only relevant words you know are “young woman,” “water,” “sea,” “beach,” “boat,” “help,” and “in.”
The oral test was slightly more encouraging, as I felt I understood as much as 15% of it. They had a fairly sophisticated language lab set up, with a recording, a headset with a microphone, and a keypad. I felt like I was participating in some kind of experiment. But where’s my informed consent form?
But even many of the French immersion grads aren’t completely sure which way is up (especially in conversation), and we’re telling ourselves that we wouldn’t be here if we knew everything already.
I’m not too worried about what workshop I’ll get, although the video workshop requires you to be at the level of “Intermédiaire 2,” – they say they can be flexible about it since I have the technical skills, but it’ll be hard to make a case if I’m two levels back (Débutant 2) instead of just one (Intermédiaire 1, which would be a huge confidence boost to get, but let’s not start dreaming just yet!). Heck, I could even be Débutant 1! I know I did better than a lot of people who just looked at the written test, stayed for maybe five minutes, and handed it in mostly blank; but the question is: how much better?
If I get Débutant 1, I have no choice in the matter: my “workshop” will be conversation. If that happens to me, I won’t complain – I will never worry about having made a poor choice of workshop (it’s a big commitment – it’s what you’ll be doing every weekday afternoon for over a month!), and I certainly need the practise anyway. If I make it to Débutant 2, I can choose most of the basic workshops – art, scrapbooking, tree planting, outdoor fitness training, “mega social dancing” (what lovely Frenglish!) and even Cape Breton (Acadian) dancing! There are probably a few more that I’m forgetting.
I’m hearing lots of screams from my open window. Right now we’re sharing the campus with a large group of Grade 7 students who will be going into late-start French Immersion. I saw them playing soccer-baseball last night.
The plan for tonight is to meet in our common room at 6:30, when Alaa (our animateur, which is like an RA except that the animateurs I’ve met so far aren’t lazy sods), will go over all the rules and regulations in English, after which we will join the whole field and meet to sign our contracts (the ones that say, among other things, that we will only speak French). After that, we’ll have a wine-and-cheese (pur fromage, just like my French!) and after that