It’s incredible that we’ve been in France now for 6 weeks already and that we have completed 5 weeks of language school! We are still in the process of figuring life out in our new environment, but things are coming together gradually. We have some established routines, such as our biweekly grocery runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays (most stores are closed on Sundays) and frequent outings to nearby parks with playgrounds. But we are hoping to incorporate other activities as well, including visiting the city library regularly and joining a local club or “association” as an opportunity to engage the community more and to practice our French. I’m thinking of joining a basketball association while Eunice is thinking of joining one involving crafts and scrapbooking. Most people here in Albertville don’t speak English, so one benefit is that we are forced to speak French (or at least try to) whenever we leave our apartment/school complex.
What is full-time language school like? Well, the sheer amount of new vocabulary words and grammatical rules learned daily often feels like (as the English expression goes) “drinking from a fire hose.” We have homework every night along with weekly exams, so our studies have been keeping us considerably occupied. Despite the intensity of it all, we ARE learning and we are grateful to be part of this remarkable language learning community.
Is there a specific level of language proficiency we are trying to reach? Officially no, but having a higher level of mastery would certainly be more helpful for us in Burundi. Our school teaches according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which provides a foreign language proficiency scale measured by six levels from A1 for beginners to C2 for those who have demonstrated mastery of a language.
So what level of proficiency would a student attain after completing one year here? Assuming a student started at A1 and continued to pass all coursework, he or she would be at a B1.1 proficiency level (B1 is broken up into B1.1 and B1.2), or in other words, an intermediate level. If a student started at a higher level with prior French knowledge, he or she would continue to progress accordingly. I tried to figure out how these levels corresponded to number of years of French taken in high school or college, but it doesn’t exactly cross over neatly. Nevertheless, from my quick internet search, one year of high school or college French is roughly about 1 of the 6 levels on the CEFR proficiency scale. So, if you took 4 years of French in high school, you would probably be somewhere at the B1 or B2 proficiency level. This surprised me somewhat, but it just goes to say that learning languages takes time and is no easy matter!
One of my favorite things about learning French is being able to praise and worship God in another language. Here is one of my favorite songs that we sing regularly here at the school: Mon secours est en Toi, which means My Help is in You.