My Journey Through French, Past to Present
One thing you must know about me is that I love French. The language, the culture, the food, the people, the country...well, you get the idea. I started taking French in high school and absolutely loved it. I had really great teachers: Madame Schumacher and Mademoiselle Koepke. They really made learning the language fun, because we also learned about French culture through activities, videos, songs, food and field trips. It is truly because of them that I love French. I immersed myself watching French movies, sought out French books to read for fun, and became co-president of the French club with my friend Paula. It was official--we were Frenchies for life (FFL). My home room teacher, Dave, also spoke French, and we would often converse. So much of the English language is made up of French. I never studied abroad (and that is probably one of my biggest regrets in life), but my dream was to one day go to Paris.
In college, I continued to take French. I figured, heck, I've studied it for 4 years, why not continue on? My professors were Madame Rusterholz, Madame Klein, and Madame Poulton. I really lucked out again, as they were all fantastic teachers, and I learned so much during the course of my studies. I really refined my writing and speaking skills in college, and even now when I look back on papers and essays I wrote and tests that I took, I'm like, damn! I am pretty proud of how far I have come, and my proficiency in the language. I also bonded with some other French speakers in my classes, and we would hang out occassionally and talk about all things French. True Francophiles (people who love French)! I did a lot of traveling during college for various volunteer opportunities, and anytime I would hear people speaking French out in public, I would slightly swoon, and eavesdrop on their conversation. I gained a French speaking penpal also, David, who I absolutely adore. He lives in Montréal, and I met him through volunteering for a global organization. Beyond the classroom I never really had much of a chance to practice speaking French until one day when I was offered the opportunity to do an internship for the World Federation of Hemophilia in Montréal, Québec.
I moved to Montréal for 3 months of summer in 2007. It was such a great experience. Dave once told me that, "If Chicago and Paris had a baby, it would be Montréal." He was so right about that! It is the perfect combo of both cities. I lived in a really amazing apartment in the Plateau, which is a cool, hip area that a lot of both French and English-speaking students live. I actually got to speak French when I rode the bus, went shopping, attended church, and ordered food. It was awesome! The French I learned in school was different from the French Canadian dialect, but overall I could get by. And of course, David was a fantastic tour guide of his home, and we went on many adventures--including taking a trip to Québec City to see Cirque du Soleil! I also had some special visitors from the states while I was living there, including my French professor, Mme. Rusterholz! Here is the blog I wrote while I was living there, if you are interested at all in reading it. It's fun to look back on and see where I was in my life at that point in time. My, how I have changed (and in some ways, haven't changed at all).
After I graduated college, I had an upcoming trip to Paris, Istanbul, and Amsterdam. I was definitely most stoked about Paris, because I knew it would be a dream come true. And it was! I totally did all of the tourist-y things that Americans do there, and saw the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Elysées, the Seine, the Louvre, and Notre Dame. I ate chocolate croissants every day for breakfast. I also tried snails and frog legs, and they were actually pretty good! And contrary to popular belief, not a single French person was rude to me or my friends. Now granted, I also spoke French fluently, so that was not an issue, but that's one piece of advice I would give to any world traveler. Take the time to research the place you are going to: culture, traditions, what not to do, and learn a little of the language. People really appreciate when you have made an effort to learn about their home and culture, and it shows respect. My only complaint about my trip to Paris was that it was too short.There are still things I want to see that I didn't have time for (the Moulin Rouge and Sacre Coeur, for example). Perhaps on my next visit!
Currently, I get to speak French at my job, as I take care of our French-speaking customers, whether they are placing an order or need help resolving an issue. That is pretty cool. I had a few French-speaking co-workers, but now one works in a different department and the other one moved away, so I am all that's left! I have increased my French vocabulary immensely learning about words for party supplies and costumes. I love it, and it definitely keeps my brain from getting rusty in the French language.
I am actually going back to Paris in July, and I can hardly wait. I will be attending an educational conference there, but in my free time will spend every waking moment exploring, and reveling in the wonder that is Paris. I have been brushing up on my French by watching French films (I recommend Amélie, Les Choristes, and Le Dîner du Cons, which is actually the original version of Dinner for Schmucks) and reading French books (Better Reading French and Le Petit Prince). I also plan on shopping and eating--a LOT. It's going to be amazing! My next goal is to re-visit France, and this time take a trip to the south, and enjoy the champagne, lavender fields, beaches, and small towns. I cannot wait to do that, perhaps in another 4 years! :)