Parlez vous Francais?
I hope that in the very near future, I will be able to answer this question with a resounding “Oui!”
The idea of learning French first popped into my head while I was on my career break. As much as it was great to be able to speak Russian to converse with locals, I felt like I could have connected with other travelers better if I knew French. The majority of people I met seemed to speak French as a first or second language and when I was in hostels, groups of Europeans would slowly revert to speaking French as a common language that was more natural for them to speak than English. As a result, I was often left out of the conversation.
Now, as I look ahead to my travels to Mali and Burkina Faso in November, learning French seems even more appealing – it is spoken in both countries.
As a first step, I went to a “Bilingual Bootcamp” a couple weekends ago at Multilingual Connections – a translation company and language school here in Chicago. Located in the Logan Square neighborhood just off the Blue Line, Multilingual offers these day-long bootcamps as a way to get quickly immersed in a language. And they have a great variety of languages from which to choose! While I was learning French, other classrooms were chattering away in Spanish, Polish and Arabic.
The bootcamp went from 10:00 to 4:00 p.m. with a half hour break for lunch midday. The class was small – just six of us – and our instructors were skilled and enthusiastic. While they were both Americans and native English speakers, to my ears they could pass for native French speakers. Elizabeth started us off in the morning with the basics – the alphabet, pronunciation, numbers and basic vocabulary. Alison continued with us after lunch going a little more in-depth with articles and verbs and some more vocabulary. While it may seem disruptive to have two different instructors, it was actually nice to hear their different accents and experience different styles of teaching – especially since I was interested in going on to the weekly courses.
Having studied Spanish in high school and college, and Russian in college and again during my career break, I was pleasantly surprised with how easy French felt. There seemed to be a lot of similarities to Spanish and it definitely didn’t feel as difficult as Russian. I felt like my biggest stumbling block is (and will be) pronunciation. The good news is that I will have plenty of time to practice since I will be starting a weekly class in early August!
Since I completed the bootcamp, I’ll be jumping into a Beginner II level class for eight weeks. If all goes well, I hope to continue with Beginner III right afterwards, which should take me right up to my departure for Mali and Burkina Faso. My class will be Thursday evenings, 8:00-9:50 p.m. with Alison, one of the instructors I had during the bootcamp. Multilingual also offers a free French conversation café on Monday evenings, so I’ll have another chance to practice each week.
I should be parlez-ing Francais in no time! Stay tuned to hear how it goes!
Disclaimer: Multilingual Connections is providing me with a complimentary Beginner II class, but all opinions here are of course my own.
Sign up for a class of your own this summer using the code KATIE19 and get $19 off the price of tuition!