You hear it all the time – the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it and surround yourself with people who speak that language. Well, although it was not intended, I ended up in a French-speaking city and I actually, have taken 3 years of French in secondary school (without knowing that one day it’d useful). If you know me, you’d know that I suck at anything and everything that have to do with memorisation, and so I’ve forgotten almost all of the grammar, vocabulary and essential things in the French language that allow you to actually be able to speak it. But well, it was 3 years of education, so by some means I can still you know, read a little bit here and there, respond to other’s bonjour etc etc.
Of course I would not waste the opportunity to try and actually learn the language properly, so I decided to start talking to locals in French! The best way to start is obviously in the supermarket. With the cashier.
One thing I noticed, is that although some might just straight up say ‘Hi’ instead of ‘Bonjour-hi’ to you, most of them retain their bilingual side, even to an asian like me (which is totally fair, since there are also tons of quebec born asian who can speak french). So when you reply with ‘Bonjour’, people will usually continue speaking in French. It took me a few times to be able to hold an all-french short conversation with the cashier, and of course, I’ve had a few embarrassing moments.
FYI, I suck at listening, especially when they are speaking really fast (and in a quebecois accent). It took me some time to recognise the phrase ‘xxxxx sac’ (do you need a bag) and to be able to respond it with ‘non, merci’. It was a major break-through though when I finally did that, BUT it was when they ask ‘xxxx debit ou credit’ that I again, failed to react on the spot.
So I told myself ‘okay I’m gonna google how to say ‘credit card’ in French and Imma go in the shop, speak French with the cashier and pretend that I am a Montrealer.’ I looked it up, it was ‘carte de credit’, so I rehearsed a bit, and off I went to Jean-coutu. You’ll never guess what happened – I said ‘credit carte’ with French pronunciation to the cashier (facepalm) and of course, I caught her smirking. Whelp it’s fine, it happens, and that’s how you learn a language!
I’ll be taking an intensive French course when I get back to Hong Kong, so hopefully next year I can speak more in French??????? SO, if you’re studying abroad in a non-english country (which you totally should), try your best to talk to people in whatever language that is (even though it can be embarrassing for the first few times!)
I went to Quebec City yesterday (3/2) and I AGAIN embarrassed myself while trying to speak french:
me: Bonjour! Je veux un(no idea which I should use) bebe poutine
cashier: bebe poutine xxx?????xxx?????????????
cashier: c’est tout?
me: yeah! c’est tout (ft very bad accent) 😀