At this stage of an Erasmus year one of two things will have happened:
Le premier, your French has improved massively, you are toting a beret everywhere you go and you’re tutoyer-ing everyone in the patisserie down the road. Your new beau Francois is so much cooler than Pierre was, and brings you pains au chocolat every morning, not just on the weekends.
Or you still freeze up a little before launching into a fumbled attempt at franglais. You look around your group of friends and see only one or two native francophones, and though all your mates from home are expecting to meet Francois, or even Pierre, you fear you’ll come away from the year with more new contacts in the UK than in La Belle France.
Well, just know you’re not alone. Maybe if you picked option number one, in which case you can go back to your midday apéro, and the rest of us will try to figure out just how we’ve gone twelve weeks without much improvement in our language skills.
The habit of sticking around anglophones may seem a hard one to break, but chances are a few of your pals will want to break it too. Problem being, the French system is such that student societies don’t really get a move on with anything until about this point. Certainly here in Aix, Tandem society Mozaik has only just hooked up us eager francophiles with our partenaires.
Yes, your partner will probably want to speak English with you too, but shopping and changing between the two languages is probably very good for your brain, and is easily doable over a verre du vin ou deux. It’s nice having the opportunity to chat away to a native safe in the knowledge they won’t turn away and start nattering to someone else, and that they want to help you. These associations are about language exchange, not you stumbling your way past the subjunctive, so they’re really worth signing up for.
It’s always interesting to get away from uni a bit, so why not try something else in town? Couchsurfing, the online community of poor travellers and trusting hosts, has groups in most cities, and is a great network to get into if you want to meet some locals. You’ll find the same welcoming talk-to-anyone atmosphere as a freshers’ week social, with more experiences to hear about and fewer, well, freshers.
The effort to get up out of your chair may be too much some days. Others just reading a waffley blog about life in France may be all you can manage, but when you’re feeling brave, make your way to some kind of meeting, loose your tongue and let the words flow. You’re here to speak and listen, so go to it, and know you’re not alone.
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