I started back up with school yesterday in Montpellier.
It’s a different school than last time; this one is specially for OFII, which is the French bureau of Immigration and Integration. As part of my visa process, it’s possible to get free French classes to get you all immigrated and integrated, and I was approved for 180 hours of study. The school handles all of the immigrants coming through Montpellier, and as such is incredibly diverse and much bigger than the private language institute I was attending.
It’s also sort of weird…it’s in an old building with a cheap coffee vending machine and no toilet paper in the bathrooms. The staircase railing is thick and old and there are cracked plastic chairs in the halls and linoleum on the floor. There are bulletin boards lining the walls with notices that haven’t been changed in years, and the classroom sports a map that goes back to at least the early 80s, since the Soviet Union is still represented, and half of the countries in eastern Europe are swallowed up in that. Interesting to remember how much borders have changed in such a relatively short amount of time…
In short, other than the fact that there are now dry erase boards instead of old chalkboards, and I wasn’t given a locker combination to remember (and yes, based on everything else, I was sort of disappointed) the school looks exactly like what you’d imagine a run down elementary school would look like.
It sort of has that vibe too, even though we’re all adults…the teacher in the morning had huge red glasses and a disapproving pinched look on her face, and spent the first fifteen minutes of the class scolding people for being late. The radiators are too hot and make noise, the clocks don’t move, the electical outlets are hidden under sagging paint.
Nonetheless, yesterday was really fun. The class was about fifteen people, and is conducted of course entirely in French. There were people from the Phillipines, Serbia, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan, Mexico, Colombia and Ireland, and the atmosphere was very lively (in large part due to the two Spanish-speaking guys, who are adult versions of the class clowns you remember from school.)
Unlike the other school, the focus is so far almost nonexistent in regard to grammar, verb conjugation, direct objects, all that stuff, which was really much more highlighted in my other course…though I’m hoping that this stuff still comes up and gets highlighted. Rather the focus is on vocabulary, listening comprehension and speaking, even if your spoken syntax is a little garbled. We listened to songs and translated tham and answered questions, we learned the names of furniture in a house (and she talked a lot about the process for housing and getting assistance and the laws in French about eviction too, so it seems like she’s trying to direct the lessons towards things that immigrants might actually have to deal with in the real world.) We had a discussion about SDFs (which stands for sans domicile fixé, or homeless) and what was available for them, in the winter particularly.
I guess I’d like a little more focus on actual French grammar, but in the end, between my carpool commute to a lively lunch break conversation with my class (other people who have French as a second language are WAY easier to understand!) I wound up speaking nothing but French for eleven straight hours. If I get nothing but immersive practice speaking and listening, I think the next ten weeks are going to be really productive.