Present still imperfect, but not as tense

In an effort to improve my French, last year I signed up for a community education course titled “immersion conversation,” or something to that effect. After eight weeks of floundering, I despaired of ever becoming conversant.

For a while I resigned myself to forever sounding like a Dick and Jane book. “Où est ma tante? Ma tante est là. Regardez mon chapeau. Regardez, Pierre, regardez.” But recently I was overcome by a sudden will to sink my teeth in and learn.

I’m happy to report that—after three months of daily study—I’m finally getting the hang of it.

I still have to think in English or Spanish and then mentally translate to French, but at least now I can speak of the past and the future. I’ve learned a bit about moods (like the ever-so-bossy imperative), and I’ve learned some truly exotic words. One of my faves is galimatias, which roughly translates as “gibberish.”

I’ve been using the wonderful Ultimate French Review and Practice as my text. Its ingenious exercises teach vocabulary, grammar and a bit of culture all at the same time. A couple of the lessons—like the unfortunately titled Après l’accident—have made me laugh out loud. There’s nothing like reciting the various injuries after a car accident to cheer a gal up.

I’ve also been listening to a charming podcast titled “One thing in a French day.” Three times a week, I tune in to catch up on Laetitia’s life. I’ve accompanied her on vacation, welcomed the news of her daughter’s birth, been saddened by a colleague’s suicide, amazed by her descriptions of Paris … and I’ve understood almost every word.

Recently, I also discovered RFI’s Journal en Français Facile. It has quickly become my favorite way of catching the headlines, although the term facile is relative.

Of course, I’ll never master French. But it’s fun just the same to try.

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