February 5, 2007
I’m in Strasbourg, living with a French family who only speak French. When they speak to me, I mostly just nod and say “Oui, oui.” With narrowed eyebrows, and mouth agape, I listen and think, “I hope this isn’t important.”
I have met people in North America before who carried their end of the conversation with only the words “Yes, yes.” It was clear that they had no idea what I was saying. Ah yes, so this is what it feels like.
I’m not sure that Centre typically places beginning French students with host families. I requested it persistently because I thought that full emersion language learning would be cool. It’s more like hard than cool. But I’m learning alright. I learned the other day that if I leave pastries on my desk, the 16 year old terrier, Salie, will find a way to get her thin, gray, elderly body on the desk and eat the pastries. I was in the kitchen asking myself where I’d be if I were a French coffee filter when I heard Madame Schirmann’s voice from my room, “Salie!”
I’m getting to know Strasbourg fairly well. Getting lost is like failing a test; you learn from your mistakes. And really, the city is not that difficult to get around in. You simply ask the kind people of Strasbourg for directions.
“Pardon, madam. Ou est le supermarche.” You think you just asked her where the super market is. She looks at you like you just asked if she’d mind giving you a ride on the handlebars of her bicycle. You try the same phrase a couple more times. “Ahh, oui,” she says, beginning to nod and laugh at you at the same time.
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