La Finale

This seems like a fitting title, considering France will be playing in the final against Croatia this Sunday for the first time since 1998. But also in what feels like a bittersweet moment, this week marked the end of my time in Tours and in France. Although I feel as though I have been living in France for about 3 months, this week has quickly passed. Tuesday was quite exciting, as my host family and I decided to eat dinner an hour earlier just so we would be afforded the opportunity to fully invest ourselves into what was actually quite a boring match. Although a slightly undewhelming game, my host father’s commentary throughout the spectacle made up for my unsatisfied angst. After the match, however, the celebrations began. My house was situated just on Rue Nationale, providing me with a great view of the sunset each night, the ferris wheel, the tram, and the many passerbys who roam the streets throughout the day. Just outside the window, I heard people chanting “Umtiti”, the defender who scored the goal for France. Others chanted “Allez, allez, allez finale” as drivers honked their horns and pedestrians draped the flag upon their shoulders. I decided I would go to the guinguette, and even as I walked towards the river, it proved difficult to cross the street as traffic ensued and people filled the streets.

Wednesday, I visited Amboise, just about 30 minutes away from Tours. It was the first castle I had taken the time to visit, after receiving many recommendations. It was interesting to see something such as that–that was a combination of both Gothic and Renaissance architecture. But what surprised me most, after visiting Amboise and then Clos Luce (where Leonardo da Vinci stayed whilst in France), was that I was able to understand a significant portion of what was being said by our tour guide and the teacher who accompanied us. Being forced to speak the language for 5 hours straight while also having to interpret and translate everything from French to English can be a tiring feat, but as I have made minor improvements, I recognize that translating is now becoming a passive process.

Yet, I still have many days where I am able to speak French well and many others where my French seems just as bad as when I first arrived. I have become cognizant of when my French seems to suffer the most and when it seems to thrive. Typically when I find myself in difficult situations, French isn’t as difficult because I see it as a necessity. Yet, when I find myself in an uncomfortable situation, amongst a new group of people in a new setting, I seem to stumble upon my words, unable to put together a sentence with a subject, verb, and object. Wednesday’s class seemed to be a good example of that. While I do not typically have trouble speaking or interpreting, we were required to take an oral exam. I felt slightly unprepared, considering I did not know what to expect, but I assumed it would be fairly easy for me to listen to some audio recording and identify the main idea. Yet, as my teacher continued to replay excerpts and exercises for us to listen to, I failed to comprehend every single one. Instead, I was only successful with a particular portion of the exam. It is in moments like these that I become a little insecure about how much I truly understand French. With my host family and those living with me, I have explained to them that I am not entirely sure if I actually know French or I am just capable of understanding particular words and piecing together a conversation because I am able to utilize context clues. I assume that this is what we do in English when first acquiring the language, but I can truthfully say that during the past year or so that I have taken French, this is the first time I have become attentive to how it is that I am learning. It’s a very intuitive and personal experience–to take note of how one has learned and continues to learn when mastering another language. On occasion, I have moments where I am presented with new words, and typically just before I am getting ready to look them up, I quickly realize I am able to understand its meaning without the use of a dictionary.

Today was my last day in Tours. Before leaving, I had an exam that covered two particular areas, “comprehension ecrite“, and “production ecrite“. I found the exam to be quite easy, and after receiving my marks, I was pleased to see that I had improved in the areas of written comprehension and production, as well as French and oral production. While parting ways with my professor, she mentioned that I should continue to study French, making note of the fact that I had developed quite a vast vocabulary and developed better speaking skills.

I don’t find goodbyes difficult, but they are always a bit awkward. I had spent the past 7 weeks saying goodbye to all the people I had come to know, but today, it was my turn. As I hugged the people I met throughout my time in various courses, one girl said to me, “you always meet twice in life”. I now know that it is German saying, but I find truth in that, regardless. I have met many people from other states who I have run into at airports, so I am hopeful that we may all meet again.

I am now writing this from Paris, with the intentions of returning back to the United States tomorrow. I am more than thankful for my time here in France. I would never consider myself well-traveled as I have only been outside of the US twice, and now thrice, but it has been an invaluable experience that has left me feeling empowered.