… I’m not a linguist like you might be, though - before I got here, I didn’t even know what infinitive meant! Needless to say, 99% of the communication here at Saint-Anne is in the ‘default’ present de l’indicatif, even among people who should know better.
A digression: We use a lot of hand gestures, and we say things like “dans le passé,” (“in the past”) because 1) we beginners don’t know the conjugations and it’s hard for me to carry 501 French Verbs with me to lunch. =) 2) the intermediate and advanced students are too slack to have memorized them already. On that note, it’d be nice if there was a shortcut to language learning; from what I’m experiencing now, the only ‘shortcut’ would be to learn another language. I think the trick is to keep using what you learn and to keep practising. This environment helps; I’ve been here a week and it feels like a month from what I’ve learned. My French now is already better than my Polish got in early 2005.
… You were saying you might have a problem handling things here – I don’t know about that, and here’s part of the reason why: we’re REALLY lucky that William the Conqueror – er, conquered – because we’ve got all these high-end administrative-esque five-dollar words that have been stolen straight from the French. It makes it not terribly difficult to express oneself here, because if you have a good English vocabulary, it’s a great help with French, and there’s often a five-dollar word that’s nearly identical in both languages available for your use.
The other part is that you have experience learning other languages (Especially Latin! Learning Latin before French isn’t a bad idea; heck, it would probably be best to learn Latin, then French, then English, but I bet hardly anyone does this.), and that would help you immensely. I think it’s a benefit for a fairly mundane reason: it just gets you started using other parts of your brain. At that point you have to differentiate – I find my Polish and Ukrainian get completely mixed up all the time. But French is lately occupying a sector of my brain all to itself. In fact, much of the time here I even think in French. I was never really able to do that with Polish or Ukrainian.
And another benefit for me has been newfound knowledge of the origins of many English words and the true meanings of some French expressions that we use everyday. I also know that this experience will make me a much better writer in English. Except for right now - right now I’m not doing that well, because English and French are at war for supremacy in my mind, and an equilibrium has yet to be reached.
Another funny thing is that a state of agitation (especially drunkenness and anger) makes expressing yourself in French easy – if you were crying, you would probably do it in French. When I get drunk or angry, the French pours out like a waterfall.
But if you think it’s hard here, in some ways you would be right. Right now I’m thinking this is one of the toughest but one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. And the living conditions here are great, especially for us older students. Ah, it’s like a little village here! I’ll never forget it, and I’ll miss it greatly.
Vraiment! Je me souviendrai cela ce expérience à moi fin de vivre.