June 30

So I am in France now for the festival of Arras this weekend and I am incredibly excited about seeing Florence and the Machine and Skip The Use particularly! As I have already said in a previous post, it is an amazing festival and definitely worth going to.

But, on a more serious note, what do you do when like me you speak very little French and you get a French boyfriend with a French family who, unsurprisingly enough, can’t speak English. Because right now, that is the story of my life.

I do happen to be very lucky to have my very own human translator. My boyfriend is always there to tell me what the fucking hell someone just said to me because I am always totally lost. It isn’t just the fact that my French is poor, it is also the speed that they speak to you. It’s as if they are scared that someone could interrupt so they need to get the entire sentence out, sometimes even WITHOUT pausing for breath! This is of course absolutely no help to me, as I need the French to speak to me as if I am mentally disabled instead of as if I am a native.

So, after coming to France a few times last year and understanding NOTHING, I decided it was time to learn French. If I’m honest, it is not an easy venture!

I have tried with books. Now, I know that for some people it is useful to learn how to book a hotel room or learn how to arrange a boat trip, but I stay with my boyfriend in his apartment in France and I am terrified of boats so that is no fucking help to me whatsoever! And the dialogues in the book were incredibly boring! I need to learn how to conjugate verbs and get a vocabulary and have a conversation with French people about my life, or politics or anything! So all these books have found themselves unused and hidden at the back of my wardrobe.

Then my poor boyfriend, who was probably beginning to give up his hope of his pain-in-the-arse anglaise ever learning French, found these audio tapes by Michel Thomas. Being English and generally shit at French, I was sceptical that listening to someone talk French at me will ever make me understand this confusing language. But then again, my old school French teacher used to tell me that if I just tried I could be good, and for the sake of my boyfriend I agreed!

Well, if anyone out there wants to learn a language and finds it hard, you should try the Michel Thomas method. He talks mostly in English, but he teaches you the language in such a way that you find yourself constructing your own sentences! After listening to the foundation, advanced and language builder, I can now conjugate all verbs into 2 forms of the past, the subjunctive, the future, the conditional and of course the present. I was amazed because before I had failed at all methods of learning. Even my mum who sometimes has problems even speaking English can speak French with this!

However, after achieving so much with this method I decided to try the 5 hour vocabulary course. Then I found it was made after the death of Michel Thomas so instead we have a woman running the course, and within 10 minutes she made me want to kill myself.

First of all, she seems to think she is in High School Musical and talks just like Whitney Houston sings. First her tone is high, then low, high, low, high, low e.t.c. And she takes that incredible forced and fake ‘posh’ accent which adds to her annoyingness and makes me fantasize about smacking her in the face. To add insult to injury, she also talks to you as if you are mentally retarded, speaking TOO slowly in English, which by the way love I can already fucking understand funnily enough, and she is constantly making irritating sentences such as ‘See! Look how easy these simple transformations can be!’ Again, I am actually not mentally disabled so you don’t have to explain to me that I can understand something.

She is also constantly making embarrassing ‘tributes’ to Michel Thomas, making us create sentences such as ‘La methode de Michel Thomas est preferable parce qu’elle est tres remarkable’ (The Michel Thomas Method is preferable because it is remarkable). Then, to make it more cringeworthy, she says ‘so true!’ after you answer. She then makes another 3-4 comments like this, all equally embarrassing. Honestly, I feel like Michel Thomas who spent years creating his programs to make language learning easy would be annoyed at all of these arse-kissing comments.

And by the way, it still gets worse, because the students are actually French as this is supposed to help us with our pronunciation. This would be an incredible idea if it wasn’t for the fact that they speak incredible fast and make no effort to speak slower or clearer. Because if someone is listening to the CD it means they they clearly aren’t fucking fluent!! So talking at their natural speed does not help with your pronunciation, but instead just makes you feel disheartened because you can’t understand a fucking word they say! And then you have to hear the answer from Miss-High-School-Musical in order to understand. And the female student not only sounds like a man, but also seems to be a French teen, so of course she hasn’t come to terms with the fact that when you speak you actually have to OPEN your mouth and not mumble.

And finally, all the sentences you are taught are either negative, useless, or so unbelievably posh that you would never even say the sentence in English, let alone French! Even my boyfriend said that he never says any of the sentences taught in the vocabulary course. And seeing as I finished school 5 years ago, I can’t see when I would ever use the sentence ‘Quelle chance! La voiture du professeur est reparable!’ Of course I understand that it is teaching me vocabulary, but sadly it is so mind-numbingly boring that I give up!

So, if you want to learn French, then use the all the Michel Thomas programs excluding the vocabulary course. After that, my best advice is to go to France and get a French boyfriend/girlfriend. I’m sure, like mine, they would be willing to share a lot of things with you :)

The romantic Pepe Le Pew :)