Tuesday, September 02, 2008


I thought it would work.
Who needs SCHOOL?
I've got osmosis and French in-laws.
Just open your mind maaaaan, and let the French just floooow right in...

Yeah, it flows in OK.....flows right in, hurls itself around while my brain searches for some sort of order then usually propels itself right back out while leaving a word or two behind. Most of the time the words that really help me understand the conversation....like THE or THEN or NOW.

I've got zero problems talking (diarrhea of the mouth since birth helps) but having 10% or less comprehension doesn't really make me a very good listener unless you are into confused faces and "Je n'ai compris pas" being repeated dozens of times. After three months of a French comprehension plateau and much internal debate, I decided to humbly accept that I do in fact, need to go....BACK TO SCHOOL.

I dusted off my books and returned to the Alliance Francaise on Friday to sign up for class. I took a month of classes there in February and all I wanted to do is pick up where I left off. Simple. Chapter 5 please. I went to the information desk, stated my query in French and was promptly told by the woman (in French) that I would have to retake the French placement test...

ME: Why?
HER: Because your French level may have changed since February.
ME: To change nothing. Wait, nothing change. My French does not change.
HER: You cannot enter the class without taking the test first.
ME: I want chapter 5.
HER: Take the test first. You are speaking French to me now. See? It is better.
ME: No, no. I do not know chapter 5. I never learn chapter 5. I want to take chapter 5. I do not want the test. It is not necessary the test. My French is same. My husband is French. I know chapter 4. I want chapter 5.
HER: Take this test to the second floor testing room.

GRRRRR. OK, fine. I am clearly not going to get anywhere with her. But I am NOT taking that test again. I already took it once and I am DONE. I march up to the second floor, determined as ever to get out of this test. The man running the testing room escorts me to a desk with the test.....(in French)

ME: Wait. I want to talk. It is not possible for me, the test. I studied here in February and I want chapter 5. I want a class with chapter 5.
HIM: But your French may have improved since February.
ME: My French is terrible. I do not understand. I want chapter 5.
HIM: You are speaking French to me right now. Take this test and we will talk after the test.
ME: No, we talk now about this test. This test that I do not take. We talk. I want chapter 5.
HIM: It has been more than three months since your last class and the policy is that you MUST take the test again.
ME: If I take this test, I am dead.
HIM: (stops and looks at me for a moment) You will die?
ME: Yes, I am dead if I am taking this test. Dead.
HIM: (thinks for a moment and smiles) Well, we don't want any deaths here. You can start with chapter 5.
ME: THANK YOU. You are very nice.
HIM: That's what my wife says to me every night.

SCORE. My comprehension kicked into high gear in my hour of need (well, that and the fact that everyone at Alliance Francaise speaks in overly pronounced, extra slow for dummies French) and I learned that yes, you can really talk your way out of anything here. No means maybe means yes. Just threaten to die, that's all. Simple.


Ksam said...

HA, I love it - made me forget for a whole two seconds that I just lost 1500€ in an apartment scam...

antoine said...

One sight...
One street... Before u move from the 10� in Paris...
One day, maybe, u'll see the truth
One of two is not a swindler

jessica said...

Drama never hurt anyone. I love the transcript and the rep. Of the idea that if you speak french you are advanced, but how did CH 5 go???

Minja said...

Oh my god, You are so funny. Me and Eli are laughing 6,000 miles away. I had a similar conversation today with a bitchy Russian vegetable vendor because I wanted a paper bag, and she told me she needed something to sit on. I won, mainly because I was too caffeinated to recognize that she was being an asshole on purpose.

Michelle said...

I just found this while trawling the net, and loved it. I must say though, I am a little freaked pout by the fact that you live in France and are still on Alter Ego One.

I think maybe I am dreaming the impossible dream if I think I can learn French to a decent level without moving there.

Michelle said...

Umm that would be freaked out, not pout :-)

Anonymous said...

who's this fucking 'antoine' retard?

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