OUR FIRST EXPAT INTERVIEW IS WITH WHITNEY!
We'll be asking her a few questions about her experience learning French, why it's important to her, and what's happened along the way.
She moved from California to Paris about 1.5 years ago and has been learning French for the same amount of time.
She stays busy teaching English to French children (helped her learn many kid words), doing freelance marketing work and writing for her own blog, Whitney in Paris.
Read on for more about her experience learning French in Paris!
BEFORE ARRIVING IN FRANCE
Did you study French before you moved to Paris?
Not really. I took French lessons with a teacher when I lived in California, but I didn’t learn too much. He went over grammar rules and vocabulary in English but never made us speak out loud or listen to conversational French.
I also used the app DuoLingo before arriving just to get some basic concepts down. This definitely helped with vocab, especially the words I would need for the market!
What were your feelings about learning the French language?
I was both nervous and excited. Nervous because I had never really learned a foreign language before. What if I failed? What if I could never understand the people in the country I was about to call home for three years!?
On the other hand, I was excited because I knew that even though it would be hard, I would most likely be speaking French at the end of three years. I didn’t quite realize how hard that journey was going to be…
LEARNING IN PARIS
Q. Did you want to learn right away?
Absolutely. I didn’t want to rely on others’ ability to speak English. I wanted to take the process into my own hands so I could feel independent as soon as possible.
Q. Knowing a little French already, did you feel at ease using it when you arrived?
Since I understood a few vocabulary words (via DuoLingo), I didn’t feel completely lost if I had written text to help. But it was tough to rely on my ears since I didn’t understand the melody of language just yet. So no, most of the time, I was uncomfortable.
Q. Where did you take a course when arriving here? Did it accomplish what you wanted?
The first language learning decision we made when we arrived was to take private lessons. My husband and I wanted to dive in to our new life here and for us, a private course seemed like it would help us more quickly. Then we found Delphine and My French Coach. We liked that it was personal, we could take lessons together and the material could be adapted to our level.
Taking lessons right away absolutely helped us. We were able to accomplish simple everyday tasks much more easily. If Delphine realized that we knew some concepts already, she moved on so we could tackle new things. We definitely accomplished our initial goals, but knew that there was so much farther to go!
Q. Do you have any tricks for learning or perfecting your French?
I am a visual person, so I need to write things down in order to make sense of it all. I also think learning from children’s books and from children is a great way to start simple. I was a nounou (nanny) for the first few months in Paris so learning the pronunciation of each individual syllable from a 6-year-old really helped!
Are you continuing to make progress with your French?
I'm trying. I have taken a variety of different classes: a couple through le Mairie de Paris and through online classes. I also try to read a little every day to grow my vocabulary.
Do you have the same motivation as when you first arrived?
I think so, but my goals have shifted a bit. At first, I wanted to be able to do everyday tasks on my own and with confidence. Now, I want to carry on a discussion with ease and build up stronger conversational reflexes! Guess what that takes? Practice, practice, practice…
A FEW FUN QUESTIONS
Tell us a story. Is there an embarrassing moment or maybe a victory that you're particularly proud of?
My victorious French moment came when I got my first haircut in Paris. It had been almost a year, so it was long overdue. I was nervous, but learned a few new words to describe my hair and the style that I wanted. After walking in and sitting down, I ended up having an entire conversation in French about so many different things. My stylist never spoke English once and I understood everything he said! Except one thing - Montreal. It wasn’t until the end of the conversation that I realized the French pronunciation was much different than the English one. Whoops.
What is your favorite French word or phrase?
“C’est génial!” It means “it’s great”. I love how it just rolls off the tongue.
Do you have a favorite café in Paris?
I love La Caféothèque in the 4th. There are a lot of places to sit, but it still feels cozy. It has a nice atmosphere so it's a place I love going place to meet for a café with friends.
What interesting cultural quirk have you learned since being in France?
From working with kids, I found out that when they lose a tooth, the Tooth Fairy doesn’t come. Instead, they get a visit from La Petit Souris (the little mouse)!
Thanks to Whitney (our new Communications manager) for taking the time to recount her experiences learning French! It's definitely tough to continue motivating yourself as you move from beginner to intermediate. Keep practicing!