My husband and I started thinking seriously about a move to France about 18 months before we took the plunge. As a glutton for punishment, aka a lover of studying, I duly enrolled on a local college’s evening french class. I’d studied french for a year at school and could only remember some god-awful catchy song about birthdays, so I was a true beginner. The course started off well and by the end of it I’d managed to perfect a dodgy, but convincing french accent, and had learnt quite a bit. I flexed my french muscles on our house hunting holidays and I was convinced that within a year of living out here I’d be fluent.
Only when we did move out here I began to notice the problem with my french lessons. They were bang on for holiday french, but they were some what lacking in the practical live in France everyday words. If you wanted me to order you a three course meal with wine or maybe a citron pressé then I was your girl, if you wanted me to help you go to the Mairie’s office to get them to witness the signing of a deed for the french equivalent of your solicitor, I was not your girl. In fact, I pretty much had to take a crash course in bureaucratic french. In the first few months of renting in France we bought a house, set up bank accounts, registered a company, sorted out our insurance and got the all important Carde Vitale for healthcare. Over the next year I also had to cope with importing our car and registering it to France, giving birth in a french hospital and registering to pay French Tax. None of which was covered in my beginners french course.
Now, I’m not one for excuses.... but there are a few reasons why it’s so bloody hard to perfect my language skills. Number one on my list is my lovely little boy. He sucks up most of my time during the day and at night I’m so frazzled from looking after him that my brain is like the mush he eats. Unfortunately France isn’t a yummy mummy society and there aren’t loads of parent and toddler groups to go to, which means I go to one playgroup every other week and that’s my lot in terms of mum interactions and therefore opportunities to learn the language. Number two on the list is that I live in a teeny, tiny village. You barely see your neighbours, and when I walk through the village, I have a very limited ‘lovely weather’ type conversations. The other day I did have a conversation with our local farmer about his lost sheep, but I was lost by the end of it as to how he lost them... Number three, and perhaps our most guilty reason for not learning french quicker is the sheer number of expats. In our teeny, tiny village alone there are three other sets of English people. Two of them couples with young children and perfect for us to socialise with. Yes, it makes you lazy as instead of inviting round our french friends which is hard work and full of awkward silences, we get the Brits round. Ok, so you can throw rocks for that one.
Every year I say to myself, this is the year I’m going to learn French, but in truth, I’m now being realistic. I do think my French improves month on month, but I’ve got a huge way to go. I’m no longer impatient and I know it’s not going to come overnight, but I really wish it would!
* Also, random photo - but not really a topic that lends itself to a pic, so here's a recent one of me, my boy and my dog enjoying the spring sunshine and our recently planted grass.