It isn’t about thinking negatively or positively. Sometimes you just know. I had that sinking feeling thru both days of the exam and sure enough the call came from Yuwei that she had passed and I forced myself to go to the office to receive the bad news. I knew the next course of action but a day to wallow was completely needed. I shared the bad news before hiding in the dark movie theater.
The following weeks became routine and I listened to the angel on one shoulder and ignored the Devil on the other. Wake, Workout, Shower, Metro, Library, Film, Shop, Cook, Bed, Repeat. Weekends were a bit different with Claude being home on Sundays. That day offered conversational practice with family visits and Saturday nights at the library always provided plenty of good seats. Not always negative, I watched happy friends enjoy the Parisian nights while I stayed true to my course. My language exchange partners were more committed to my success and supported me every way they could. I began a regular practice of writing a 60-160-word essay on a variety of subjects provided in the DELF B1 prep book.
I have two consistent libraries that offer me different benefits. Although I love my Harry Potter style Bibliotheque St Genevieve, it’s an ancient building and I must beat the late sleeping students to insure a prime spot. I found much of my time at Le Bibliotheque Georges Pompidou being the best for my needs. With several outlets, it makes it easier for me since a good amount of my studies include looking things up on my phone or computer and dealing with a continuously draining battery is frustrating.
I watched one of my favorite films, Lawrence of Arabia as a welcome break, and felt that I was like him crossing the vast Sahara, trying to stay awake and not fall off the camel. MnM’s helped keep me motivated and awake. Rarely would I stay at the library for less than 3 hours and generally after the intense reading and writing exercises, I would see a French film to add to my oral comprehensions practice.
I was strict with myself, My Angel said to cut off visits with friends and limited my galleries visits, unless it was Sunday. The holidays added a few obstacles and with some visitors, I was forced to put the books aside, and began listening to more French music and reviewing flash cards. My partners really didn’t know what to do with the first series of writings I emailed them. They were just bad. Not them, the writing.
Paul was the hardest on me having known me the longest. He would rewrite the essay and send it to me but sometimes he would just say…”You didn’t feel like witting today, did you?” Or …” You need to try harder.” Either way, I hated him and he loved it. Eventually things started to work and they started to understand me. The corrections were down to some phases and the ongoing Masculine/Feminine problems I continue to struggle with.
I remember in A Beautiful Mind, the patterns would begin to unveil and come together like puzzle pieces in his mind, and the mystery would translate, and revelation would come. The signs on the metro started to make sense. I was grabbing the C News in the metro station and reading the headlines and often the more interesting articles that had a subject of interest. How could I get everyone to write their conversation on paper so I could understand? This was a thought that made me happy. I could text and email in French, just not answer the phone.
I was continually being told to stop thinking in English. It’s obviously easier to say this statement than to just switch. I didn’t understand that mostly things don’t translate the same at all. Here’s an example. “I miss you,” this translates as, “Tu me manques.” If each word is looked up and translated it would come out: (Tu)You (me)me (manques)miss. YOU ME MISS? Nope, doesn’t sound right does it? So, this is the lesson. Stop thinking in English. Not too easy.
The painful reality was that I missed passing the exam by 5 points. I knew that I needed to learn more of the language in order to work, so I kept the studies up. When I got the validation that I didn’t pass, I had already gained the additional knowledge that would have made the difference in the original test. I still needed to sign up for the next exam and begin eating the elephant.
The scores on the exam were good in showing me were the majority of the work was needed. Reading is the easiest for all the students, but I continued to use google translate (which the French hate), and WhatsApp for calcification to my questions like… why does there seem to be at least 3 different words that basically translate into the word “so?”
Although my writing was not good, It seems that the Oral Comprehension remains the biggest obstacle and not surprising that I can speak better than any other area of examination. Well, we all know I am not afraid to talk and the proof is in the pudding.
Feeling compassionate after a particularly harsh correction of my effort, Paul forwarded an article on the difficulties of the French language. Mainly being half the language is made of “exceptions.” While the language is beautiful, it is complex. I can’t help but admire Oscar Wilde and so many others that easily expressed so beautifully their words in more than their foreign tongue.
Despite the intense study sessions, I tried to balance by offering myself small rewards for the hard work. I continued hunting for hot chocolate and shared a memorable day with Leah Rivera. Happily, she agreed to go to the Marionette Show in Luxembourg Gardens. I laughed along with the small children as the classic fairy tales were performed by the same man and his family since 1933. She is a bit younger than my nieces, but she makes for a great stand in and I felt for the first time that I have French family. Not my husband’s family.
With the holidays in full swing regardless of my schedule, I managed to find a few opportunities to celebrate. I made it to a couple of Menorah lighting ceremonies, made some latkes and stayed up at night to exchange gifts. There was a televised event NY, Paris Jerusalem and we stood in the rain and sang while the Eiffel Tower light show played back drop to the Jews gathered on The Champs de Mars. I have never counted so many cars with light up menorahs and was reminded of the misconception so many have about the safety for a Jew in Paris. I’m embarrassed by my preconceived images and have never felt safer.
I tried to keep most activities out of the library to share with Claude and we were able to attend a grand tasting at the Louvre which was excellent, but I’m sure I killed too many much needed French brain cells. I made it to the Palace of Tokyo to add another museum to my list and kept up with the tutoring of my two students who proved to be kind and good friends as well as clients.
Claude went to work on Christmas eve and I decided that on a special night I should do something memorable and took myself out for a drink. I have always wanted to go to the Bar Hemingway at the Ritz in Palace de Vendome. They are the original creator of the most expensive cocktail. Their Sidecar goes for 1,670 euro, and is not what I ordered. I went for another beautiful cocktail that was much too expensive but like I said it was a special occasion and I had always wanted to experience the creation of one of the world-renowned mixologists.
Robert and Angelina came to town the day after New Year’s and like the year before, I went to the Rivera’s house and figured out the secret tips for getting the grapes down at each chime of the midnight bell. I excused myself just after midnight to get home and wish well to my own family, and prepare for a busy week of sight-seeing and tour guiding with the kids.
I was even more committed to studies when they left feeling that I had missed the library too much over the visit. I was happy that the family could communicate with me better than ever in French and people were starting to give us positive feedback that the work was showing results.
I pushed very hard the last week before the exam and started to wake at night with classic French songs running thru my head. I went into the exam with normal jitters mostly concerned about the subject matters they would want us to write on as the vocabulary needs could differ drastically between science and cuisine. We know what words I have a passion for. I gave a sad nod to a fellow candidate I recognized from the last exam attempt.
I came out feeling very good. The first set of tests went better than the last time and with a small margin to make up for I knew it would take a really big and unexpected issue to prevent me from passing, like missing the exam completely making me careful crossing the streets.
The first day of exams is broken into a few sections. The first exercise an Audio is played and you have a series of questions to answer. It is followed by a few written exercises; read about 6 various activities and determine the best one for the situation proposed and why. Read an article about a subject and answer questions support your answers with reasons from the text and then the toughest section…160-word essay.
The Essay was thankfully a subject I could discuss with some sort of emotion and the real test was being able to correctly use several tenses and conjugations. When speaking they sound similar enough that it is an easy pass. Witten shows exactly where your deficient and I have worked hard to try and get better. My spelling is bad in English therefore it makes perfect sense for it to be bad in French as well. The issue is that if you are one letter off the word takes on a completely different meaning.
I left feeling good, but I still had to come back for the second half of the exam and it was 4 days after allowing me to continue with my studies. Although I was pushing myself into a serious burn out, I kept up with the program and came in on the big day with a pretty dress and big smile. I entered the room and faced my Jury.
There were 3 women and after I went thru the traditional French greeting formalities, I sat and began the first section. Introduction of yourself. Much practiced and easy, but my examiner was a cheerful lady that wanted to ask questions from the start. I was not intimidated and I entered the second section of the exam with confidence and humor which gained me a couple of points for charm. They laughed and I felt the power of the language finally yielding to my desire.
The most important part of the exam is always the last section. I was given a choice of two subject and ask to defend my belief in regards the subject at hand. Then we began debating it, witch usually ends in me saying “yes, ok,” to anything they say because I’m a bit worn down and starting to repeat myself with lack of words to choose from. All smiles, I exited knowing the scared students that would follow, could not offer the casual fun atmosphere I created in the room, and I was sure that I was a success.
With the exam finished, there was much to catch up on and my first days were filled with cleaning, re stocking, banking and more. In that first week post exam, I connected with almost all of my ignored school friends. Devils Play ground now and I was eager to jump on board. My new focus became my papers. Slowly I have started to gather all the documents needed to apply for Citizenship. The only thing missing now is the proof of my exam being passed. This exam marks the Intermediate level of the French language.
Results should be available the first week of March and I have also kept busy getting papers turned in for my Security Social which finally came thru. Basically, this is Medical coverage and I now can see doctors and don’t have to pay as much for my asthma medication. With that, I finally cancelled my overseas insurance, and submit all the receipts I have from the last year and a half for reimbursement. Of course, one by one they are returned to me asking me for something in addition.
I have begun to get used to this dance they do, and happily return the letter confident in several years I will be paid back. I researched the current Carte de Sejour and decided that In March after the results come and the application is mailed in, I’ll go to the states to visit friends and family.
You know that in the Bible the Devil is mentioned 34 times. But in contrast the angel number 34 encourages you to let the universe know of your ambitions and aspirations. Since the Devil was an Angel, I decided that Ill work on listening to both over the course of the next adventure and will definitely keep studying. We can all use a little balance.