Friday, June 17, 2011



In January, I started a 10 week Francisation course that lasted through mid-April. My schedule was 25 hours a week of grammar, writing, vocabulary, oral conversation, cultural topics, and integrative activities. Though I had formally studied French for 7 and a half years before this (high school, university, and a semester in France), I wanted to use the long wait for permanent residency to improve my French to be better prepared to enter the work market and to integrate more into society. I also hoped to add some structure to my days and meet some new people.
This was all accomplished, but the classes were not the French "boot camp" I had wanted for myself. (Though walking 25 minutes to school in a blizzard on Valentine's Day did feel rather like some sort of arctic boot camp. Especially when I got there and was told that school had been cancelled, which meant I had to turn around and walk back home.) Taking the course was a positive experience, and it was good for me to have a reason to get out of the house during those very cold months when my preference would have been to stay in and hibernate. Through my classes, I met a lot of nice people and my French noticeably improved, especially my oral comprehension and ease of speaking. My class had a range of experience levels in it, so the course did not move as fast as I would have preferred (which was frustrating), but I still learned new things and I tried to challenge myself as much as possible with my writing. And I was in an overall more positive mood during those months.

Our class started with about 16 people and ended with 12, since some people started working or simply stopped coming as the session progressed. Almost every person was from a different country; only two countries had two people from each: Japan and Cambodia. I shared a row with a woman from Afghanistan and one from China. Seated behind me to my left were a guy from Cambodia, a guy from English-speaking Canada (the only other native English-speaker in the class), and the two women from Japan. It was interesting to spend time with so many people from different countries and backgrounds.

At the end of the session, we had a week of final exams. I did quite well on them, but I still want to improve my French. I talked with my teacher about whether I should take more classes at the school or study on my own, and we decided it was best for me to keep working on my own to improve, since that gives me the freedom to set my own pace. I have a lot of transcribing to do in French which takes a lot of time (and is quite challenging, so a big plus for my French skills). My French teacher also suggested I take a class at a local university in something that interests me. S keeps reminding me that reading enjoyable, well-written books will really help my vocabulary, so I should probably make French reading a big priority in the coming weeks and months. I already have a couple of books lined up to read, so I guess the bulk of my summer reading should be in French?


  1. When I came to Canada (not speaking English), I found reading to be HUGELY helpful. Of course you also have to speak to really put it to use, but I feel that reading trains the muscles you need. Sounds like you're well on your way! (Wish I had the motivation to learn our second official language...)

  2. Congrats on your final exams!

    I think the most important thing is to read stuff you're interested in, like S says.

    I only started reading in French when I got to university, and it was painfully slow at first. But I stuck with it and I would say now that I enjoy reading in French just as much as I do in English.

    Two really great, short books I highly recommend are La petite fille de Monsieur Linh by Philippe Claudel and La grammaire est une chanson douce by Erik Orsenna. Two of my favs for sure. :)

  3. @greyandshiny and Kim L.- Thanks for the encouragement towards reading!

    @Kim L- Will have to look into those books- thanks! :)

  4. What about french movies with french subtitles? Reading without the impression of reading, and hearing at the same time.

    By the way, you live nearby a really nice public library. You could take advantage of that!

  5. @Nic, We do watch French movies sometimes, even without subtitles, but I should probably watch more, especially Québécois films. Good idea. I should also learn how to work our (complicated, frequently changing) TV/video system software so I can do that on my own.

    And yes, the library near us is really good! I am thankful to live nearby, and will head over as soon as I finish the two books I am currently reading. Will look for some that Kim L. mentioned and some others too. :)

  6. @Nic, you inspired me to check out my first books from the library today. :) Now I have lots to read...