08 November, 2011

It's all French to me

My French hasn't improved as much as I had hoped. Part of that is due to the fact that everyone's common language in this city and at my school is English. The few times I've had people approach me on the street and start speaking in rapid French to me, I've told them that I can understand but they're speaking too quickly. Then they switch to English.

I have one course that's taught in French: anthropologie et aide au développement. If there's some kind of contextual clue, say a powerpoint presentation in which I can translate a few words with Google Translate, then I can understand at least some of what the lecture is on. Without any context I'm totally lost. Basic French classes don't typically teach you vocabulary like "female circumcision."And yet I've made it through the first half of the semester thus far, but only with the help of some absurdly generous francophones.

The midterm was yesterday and I actually felt ok about it going in. For one thing, I hadn't stressed quite as much about this one because, hell, the lecture was in a different language that I can't really understand so there wasn't much of a point in stressing myself out. Since the school is officially bilingual the test would be in both French and English and I went in yesterday without too much concern. I figured I'd sit down, be handed the exam booklet and get to work.

Instead the professor came in, turned on the computer and put up a list of readings on the projector. And then started speaking. In French. You cannot know the terror I felt at that instant. Was he telling us that the test would be over those readings? Shit, I don't think I've read all of these yet. Is he giving us instructions for the test? Fuck, what if he's giving us specific instructions for this exam... maybe there's a typo, and he's telling us not to answer the third question. WHY CAN'T I UNDERSTAND FRENCH.

I was freaking out. Thankfully as it turned out he was just talking about what we'd be covering in the next few weeks of lectures. Or so I'm told. There was another brief moment of terror in the middle of the exam when someone went up to the TA and asked her a question. She then stood up and started speaking to the whole class. This time I was actually able to stop freaking out and pay attention, and loosely understood her to be saying that we needed to explain our answer for the second question.

Midterms are finally over. Alhamdulillah.

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