Long Weekends and Summer Holidays: My Worse Nightmare Come True!

by Lyne des Roberts alias La Dame dragon

Dave is currently spending his summer holidays in PEI and will be back August 18… Before he left, he was supposed to file his accomodation request for his second attempt at the written test. He was told it would take 4 to 6 weeks before he could have a re-testing date. Since I have not heard from him, I suspect he did not do it! Well… he was kind of disgusted with the whole thing when he left… perhaps he needed to put it on ice for a while. What I fear the most is that he might be quite rusty by the time he will get back! I do not believe he will hear much French in Prince Edward Island!!! Of course, he took all his books (grammar, short novels, Astérix) with him swearing he would review and keep up with his French… Unfortunately, experience taught me otherwise! Most of the time, the books stay in the suitcase!… Can I blame my students for not making the time while vacationing? Not really… I am not sure I would be more disciplined than they are.

Learning a second language is not like learning anything else… when you get away from it for more than a day or two, you start forgetting simple notions and regressing quickly. I always remind my trainees that what took them three months to learn and assimilate will take only three days to vanish!… Advanced students do not face that problem because French is kind of engrained in their brain, but it is another story for beginners. Fortunately, what seems gone forever can be easily retrieved yet it takes a while… therefore, there is no room for new stuff! During that time, the meter is running… This is problably why I hate deadlines so much! Language cannot be learned in a specific time frame… there are moments when people just soar, then there are moments when they literally suck! Learning a second language is made of ups and downs… sometimes, my students reach a ceiling and they cannot absorb anything new for a while… THAT stresses them out more than necessary! For me, it is only business as usual… I only have to be patient and tell them “On se calme le pompon… tout rentrera dans l’ordre sous peu!”… Their brain is only overloaded with information, abstract concepts and rules… it takes some time to sort everything out. Let’s not be panicky here, life is too short!!! And…after all… it is only French!!!

Nevertheless there are a few small things people under’going language training can do to maintain their knowledge… it only requires commitment and a minimum of effort!… It actually sounds pretty much easy, doesn’t it? Except that, in reality, it is not as simple as it sounds…

One hour per day… only one lousy hour… I am not asking anything else from them! Instead of reading the paper in English, they can choose to read Le Droit (even if they merely read the headlines!)… Watching a TV program in French will not kill them either: Radio-Canada has excellent shows… they only have to pick one that agrees with their taste and interest and watch it on a regular basis… Listening to the radio in French while driving is not that demanding… is it? La Courte Échelle (Québec Publisher) has a great variety of novels for juniors (from age 8 to 16)… easy to read and quite interesting! Bottom line, it is a matter of choice

For instance, yesterday Susan told me she had rented a made in Québec movie (Maëlstrom with Marie-Josée Croze) over the long weekend… I was indeed very proud of her! She could have watched it in English, but she chose (wisely) to watch it in French… she admitted she had selected the English sub-titles, but hey! who cares? If it made her feel more comfortable, why not? Living in Canada is a bonus because, by law, all DVDs must be in both English and French… all it takes is a couple of clicks: Menu, French and Select… C’est l’enfance de l’art quoi!

On the other hand, this morning, Seema struggled through the entire two hours of her session with me… She was totally lost (and I seriously doubt it was because of the backlash caused by the Backstreet Boys’ presence at The Marshes last Monday… Sam did recover! Unless mom is a secret admirer of these guys… actually I saw them on the news, I would not even pay attention to them if they were sitting next to me! What fame can do… n’est-ce pas?)! The results of three days away from French… she left the classroom feeling guilty! Guilt is probably the worse feeling to live with… and there is no need for it! Seema is a very well organized woman, in both her professional and personal lives… since I know she has the required self-discipline, it falls to her to make the time for French and stick to her schedule. I work with adults and I cannot tell them what to do as if they were toddlers… They have to make that choice for themselves and, then, they will get rid of the annoying guilt that consumes their lives!… And… do I have to remind my students of their upcoming tests? The clock is ticking buddies!!! Consequently, apply your freedom of choice wisely…

This blog moved here, if you are ever interested to get more information on those issues…


“Dans sa pleine liberté, l’esprit est pareil à cet insecte stupide qui passe la moitié de son existence à filer un cocon, et l’autre moitié à le détruire.”

André Suarès, écrivain français



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