Saturday, December 11, 2004

one step forward, two steps back

I really, really thought I was making some progress. I even answered the phone the other day, which is something I was too terrified to do three months ago.

My in-laws bought us a new dining table - nothing grand, just bigger than the little two-seater we had - which was on backorder. We'd been waiting for weeks; my belle mere threatened to cancel the order. So I knew I'd have to answer the phone, in case the call finally came. And it did. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Allo?
Them: Madame V?
Me: Oui....
Them: Bonjour! blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah.
Me: Er..... bonjour!
Them: blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah table!
Me: Ah! La table, c'est pret? (The table, it is ready?)
Them: Oui, c'est pret.
Me: Ah, bien! Merci boucoup!
Them: Au revoir!
Me: Au revoir!

So! I was all confident! I took a call, I managed to work out the reason for the call without asking for the caller to slow down or apologizing for my sucky French, and brought it to its conclusion. Success!

I had a major reality check last night.

We went to a Christmas dinner last night, with Steph's teaching section. Everyone was very friendly, it was a very jovial crowd. The food was pretty darn good: I finally got to taste the famous trumpets of death; I had a filet of ostrich, which I'd always wanted to try (it was a bit bitter at the end), the wine was very good (though I'm paying for it today).

I had no idea what anyone said. Ever.

When we go out in big groups, it always goes down like this:

Stage 1: Everyone is very sensitive to the fact that my French is not very good. Adventurous folks will speak in broken English, and I reply in kind.

Stage 2: They realize they can't fully communicate with English, so they apologize and speak to me through my husband. I follow as I can.

Stage 3: I am forgotten as full on conversations begin. By the end of the evening I'm poking at the tablecloth with a fingernail as my husband silently reassures me and apologizes with his eyes.

I know I'm making small improvements, but today I feel like I just arrived.

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