Charles de Gaule Airport, Paris, France.
(Woman begins to speak quickly and unintelligibly)
“Well that’s interesting,” thinks a younger Mr. Vig. “I thought they spoke French in France. Maybe I got on the wrong plane…”
When I graduated from college I was in the mood for an adventure.
My friends were either going on to graduate school or starting real jobs.
I didn’t want any of that.
I wanted to live in a foreign country and speak a foreign language.
And since I had taken many semesters of French, both in high school and college, and passed (nearly) all my tests, I obviously chose to live in France.
But when I met my new employer at the airport, (I was going to be the au pair for her children, which is another story), I discovered there was just one small problem…
Back in my French class in the US, I was a confident conversationalist on such topics as the weather and my age.
I had passed French class.
But the classroom had failed me.
Eventually, I did understand Parisians.
Though it wasn’t after more class time.
It was only after doing what every fluent speaker of a foreign language does.
There’s a pattern.
I discovered it years later after I became a teacher and saw what my successful students did.
And when I began to study the methods of polyglots (speakers of many, many languages) I saw the pattern there, too.