I guess this should wait, but it can’t. I’d better hurry; class is in 45 minutes!
I got Débutant 1 after all. It was a bit of a surprise to me, but after living for one evening in French, I see why. Many people I’ve talked to, both before and after the contract-signing, say I should be Débutant 2. However, I think what’s going on is that my cross-cultural communication skills and my knack for remembering odd little trivia-like bits of the language make me appear more capable than I am. The tests were meant to test my general comprehension, and in that I could not lie. If I were just allowed to show off, I could have been at a higher level, but once there I wouldn’t really be able to understand anything! So I think I’m at the right level.
What’s more, they’ve arranged the four Débutant 1 classes according to test score. I’m in the highest one, which probably means we won’t start with “zero, un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix…” But the Débutant 1 classes (I told a few people last night, “Débutant 1 ces’t numero 1!” as a joke) have one thing in common: they’re for people who don’t really speak French, and the classes and activities will be conducted accordingly. So being in the best Débutant 1 class is sort of like… well, as John Flansburgh put it when asked about They Might Be Giants being the number one independent rock band in the United States, “That’s sort of like being the world’s tallest midget.”
Another good part about being in Débutant 1 is the variety of activities. We won’t be locked into any one thing for the entire session, and we’ll get to travel the countryside a bit and meet lots of different people. Just before we signed the contract, the staff members assigned to us explained what we’d be doing in English, and it was cause for excitement on our part.
Further, the different levels of proficiency have staggered starting times, and since I’m the only one on my floor starting at the earliest – 8:30am – I won’t have a problem getting a shower in the morning, as I’ve just done; and this time, the water worked fine.
I’ve got to hurry now; it’s 7:55 and I need to shave and eat before class. Um, yes, we had a wine and cheese last night. It was a great success. I was chatting up a storm, especially if you consider my limited practical vocabulary (Latinate mouthfuls are no problem, as they’re almost exactly the same in both languages – thank you, William the Conqueror!), and the wine was an excellent aide d’memoire. I met some new people and had some great chats with my dormmates. I can’t even begin to describe how much fun it was; it was like setting foot on another planet (“Maintenant, nous vivons sur le monde Français!”) and so far I’m enjoying the company of the citizens. The staff have been extraordinarily nice too, although I’m wondering if I might be attracting a little too much attention for my own good.