My second week in Tours was great, albeit cut short by a long weekend. Classes continued as they had before, mostly lecture style with constant chances for students to participate. I find these lectures to be effective, but more slow moving than my French courses at ND were. I am getting a good review in grammar and am learning a lot of more specific metaphorical phrases; I have definitely seen a vast improvement in my writing skills, surprisingly. My speaking skills have slightly improved (I think I am far more fluent in asking questions in French during class), but my listening comprehension still needs work.
I am surrounded by a lot of really motivated students, which is a great experience. I am trying to do activities outside of class to enrich my learning, such as practicing my phonetics by reading newspaper articles aloud and making copious amounts of flashcards. Now that I have some important grammar skills in place, vocabulary is my main focus, as with any language.
This past week has been my favorite week so far. Because a session just ended and many students are coming/going, this week is a special oral comprehension-focused week. I wish it were like this every week because we have been doing more speaking and listening exercises. A really interesting activity involved creating a questionnaire/survey and going out into Tours to interview willing people on the street. I wanted a challenge, so my partner and I decided to focus on the current French political scene. It was definitely a challenge understanding many of the complex responses, but we asked a variety of interesting questions from “What do you think about La Nuit Debout and other protests?” to “What do you think of the current presidential election in the US?” We interviewed a variety of people from different demographics, but got many similar responses. Just for some background, La Nuit Debout is a social movement/mass protest against new labor laws in France, and has been going on since March 2016. Most people responded that the protests reflect poorly on the government and that people have a right to be upset towards the new laws, a situation which only worsens with the high unemployment rates and poor economic situation. Many responses expressed that adolescents would be more involved in social activism, since they mainly have the same political sentiments. This activity was a really good experience! Many people refused to talk to us, but the ones who gave answers did a really detailed job.
I hope my last three weeks in Tours will be three weeks of rapid improvement. Now that I have settled well into life here, I am trying to add small things to my daily regime. I hope to start reading more newspaper articles and go to the cinema a few times. A few friends and I hope to bike to visit some chateaus in the Loire Valley. It is absolutely beautiful and inspiring to be here. Unlike Paris (I visited this past weekend), people let me attempt speaking French with them when I’m in bakeries, restaurants, and shops. In Paris, upon hearing my accent, many people would immediately revert to English. I’m really in love with Tours’ culture and place, and hope the remainder of my time will be well spent. There have been a few times when I have let French words slip when calling home!