Written May 9. 2015
8 week immersion course at ILA, Institut Linguistique Adenet, Montpellier, France
After the second week of classes I feel like I’ve been here for a month but also like I’m running out of time – that I’ll never cram enough in my head to pass the exam at the end of June. I do, however, feel more confident in my abilities even though I still hesitate when I speak and am at a loss for words and grammar much more often than I like.
This week in class we had three new students, all women between 40-something and 60 – one Austrian and two Americans who were part of a group associated with the Veterans Administration or something. Actually, the arrival of the two Americans caused some problems in class, a conflict between the young Swiss students who don’t want to talk about anything other than the particular grammar exercise at hand and the Americans, here on vacation, who would like nothing better than to skip all the grammar and chat about pastry, history and shopping. I don’t mind a linguistic detour from time to time but to spend 15 minutes trying to figure out the name of a pastry specialty of Nice that the one woman ate 10 years ago is a bit much. By the end of the week the situation had settled down and the class seemed to find a balance that suited most students’ needs.
The afternoon class, the one that is supposed to be more conversational in nature, was quite a change from the previous week. I did change levels to C1 from B2 the week before. Instead of having a mix of nationalities we were all Americans, and the four other students (everyone except me) were part of the same military group. Two of them really spoke French at level C2, but since there are very few students at this level they were placed in our class. The lone man dominated the class in a rather aggressive way, speaking rapid Creole French. Difficult to take your turn, but take your turn you must or you’ll never get the opportunity to speak.
As for format, the morning class tries to adhere to a communicative approach, with more traditional grammar exercises generally followed by a more communicative oral exercise. The afternoon class consists of speaking activities generally centered around a theme based on an article or activity, such as organizing a town hall debate, selling a product or a more general discussion of whatever theme might come up. Both professors are quite lax and let the conversation go wherever the students want to take it.
Personal progress is very hard to judge. It feels like I’m making progress but still have so much more to do. I’ve been going to the media center at the library to listen to audio exercises related to studying for the Dalf. I understand the excerpts but answering the questions is another story. You really have to prepare and learn how to accomplish the specific tasks necessary to pass the exam.