Someone once told me that when you begin to dream in french, is when you know “the click” is coming soon.
Last night I had a dream. I dreamt that my 4 year old nephew, who has yet to venture outside the United States, but is vaguely aware of a place called Paris, looked up at me with his big blue eyes and said something quite sophisticated, in fact, rather poetic, in french.
Unfortunately I couldn’t understand a word.
I’ve lived in Paris for 2 years, 5 months, and 4 days. Upon arrival, I didn’t know anything about cheese, how to ask for a less cooked croissant, or more broadly.. how to speak french at all.
I started taking private lessons with a lovely french woman who taught me how to be polite. Apparently when you enter a room you must say Bonjour to everyone. If I did that in NYC, someone would immediately call the police. She also taught me how to conjugate verbs and form simple sentences like, “Bonjour, j’apprends le français”, which is very helpful when I’m asked to give my opinion on french political matters.
It’s a complicated relationship. Some days I wake up, and french flows freely while other days I can’t speak a word. Living in France and learning to speak french has taught me so much. However, I think the most powerful lessons I’ve learned are to listen and to be patient.
When I communicate with someone in french I must listen with every bit of myself. One little distraction and I’ve lost context. If I manage to understand and feel confident enough to respond, I have to think a lot about what I want to say and how to say it. Usually by the time I’ve figured out what to say, the subject has past.. so you see, it is necessary to be patient.
The love hate relationship continues and I wonder if I will ever speak french fluently. People say it takes 6+ years to fully learn a language, but that’s a huge generalisation and very frustrating form of encouragement !
I’m sure my nephew had something special to say in my dream. Perhaps he was telling me “the click” is coming soon, or maybe he wasn’t speaking french at all. I guess I’ll let you know in 6 years.