I look around me and see fresh young faces. No grey hair, no wrinkles, only eager to learn and experience life faces.
One however is different. This one face has many silver highlights in her hair and lots of wrinkles telling a story of a life lived for a long time. A face that knows the tomorrows are less than the yesterdays. A face showing determination to live the tomorrows still to come to the full.
That face belongs to me and I find myself amongst all the youngsters in a a French language class.
The class starts and to my shock the lecturer fires rapid French with large expressive gestures, strange inflections, many nasal sounds and the all important gutteral R sound at the class.Then he looks at us expectantly wanting answers from us.
Thus the first rule of the class is established: No English allowed.
The philosophy being that learning a language starts by understanding first and then speaking. As a speech language therapist this makes a lot of sense to me, but being on the receiving side is a whole different ball game. For the first time I now understand why a person who is on the Autism spectrum once said people talking, sounds to him like just a lot of blah blah blah.
After three hours in the class , the blah blah become a bit less and the meaning of some words and sounds begins to find a place in my consciousness. In the course of the morning my name is frenchified and I become MaRtiè. We learn greeting and presenting ourselves and had to repeat the same words and phrases many times.
The lecturer reminded us that French originates from Latin and therefore needs big mouth movements and expressive gestures and facial expressions to accompany the language. Polite and softly spoken English has no place in this class, be loud , be expressive shrug your shoulders wave your hands. In short embrace the French culture to truly learn the language.
I went home feeling totally exhausted. After all it had been many years since I had to learn a completely new skill.
How do I feel about my new venture in to learning. I don’t really know, maybe so so for now .
But I will keep on learning and join the one older student who told me:” Don’t worry us oldies stick it out.”
As the French say: Comme Çi Comme Ça !
Illustrations by Natalie Nourigat http://www.natalienourigat.com