Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Zimbabwe, São Tomé, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola or Mexico, Brasil, Nigeria, Russia... What do they have in common? Well, for starters, they are countries where I can (with some necessary adjustments) quite successfully communicate with other people. Gabon, on the other hand, together with Congo, Benin, Togo or Cameroon, is a completely different story.

Before I came here I'd had some French classes but I had never had time to study properly. In Santiago I had work, in Poland - work and my thesis, and thus, even though I had a couple of months to prepare myself for the linguistic shock, I hardly studied. I'm still suffering the consequences.

After a month of intense yet fruitless searching, we've found a French teacher for me. She's energetic, she speaks fast and she knows her stuff. And waits patiently for several minutes until in great pain I finish one of my brilliant sentences ("Today I am wearing a black dress and a bra."), which come out in some kind of strange Spanish anyway. I also do a German (!) - French tandem with a French guy once a week, I try to study a bit on my own and I acquire quite a lot by just being here. Supermarkets are a great linguistic opportunity, as are friendly taxi-drivers or other teachers at my school.

How did my friends learn this language, though? (Not a rhetorical question - friends, answer!) And, above all, why did I choose German at school? I mean, honestly, how can you not become frustrated with French? All those letters that magically disappear in pronunciation! Argh. But I am making some progress. After a month I suppose I've reached a level which allows me to get fruit on my own, to talk to the cleaning ladies outside of my building (and they are African! the accent is different!) or to understand what children say to me at school. The other day I actually managed to haggle in French and even though we probably overpaid I was terribly proud of myself.

Of course, I still have so much studying ahead of me. I often become irritated because a) I'm a perfectionist and consequently b) I don't feel I'm moving quickly enough. Like yesterday, when I couldn't explain to the taxi driver that he was going the wrong way and he ended up shouting at me. But then again, I managed to talk to the air-conditioning technicians who encountered an unexpected problem and I told them to come back in the afternoon (and they got it, since they are here right now).

Step by step (and they are small and painful and slow steps; and they are steps and not leaps; and I have weights attached to my ankles), I get closer to feeling a bit more comfortable in this strange country where five minutes last an hour, where everything costs a fortune, where I've seen the most beautiful sunsets ever.


  1. Bientôt tu vas parler mieux que moi! Même le Galicien!

  2. How did your friends learn French? If I am one of them, I can answer: they did not :-D.

  3. I, for one, started learning it when I was 13. Oh, and listening to French music helps! as to pronunciation, once you learn the rules, it's actually more logical than English. Tu vas reussir, ne t'inquiete pas!! :)

  4. You know what could help? writing this blog in French! :)

    I tried to master French, went for an intensive course to France and it was OK back then in April/May but now it's all about Spanish again. so: practice, practice, practice! :) bonne chance!

  5. Dzieki! :)

    Ula, to Ty masz bloga?? Dlaczego nic nie mowisz??

  6. yyy, bo go updejtuje jakos raz na rok? ;) i chyba zaczne nowego jak zacznie sie moje przygoda w Lyonie...