I’m going to Montreal later this month to give myself the ultimate language proficiency test—by immersing myself in a French-speaking environment to see whether I can hack it. While Montreal is known to be a bilingual city, with plenty of fluent English speakers, I’m going to attempt to make it on my own there without speaking a word of English. This trip will take place one week after I take the OPIc (Oral Proficiency Interview-Computer). I’d be curious to see how my official score measures up to my practical performance.
My Plan—Create as many speaking opportunities as possible
-Stay at a predominately French-speaking auberge d’jeunesse (hostel) = Better chance to interact with others staying there.
-Visit a French bookstore and ask for help with purchasing French language materials
-Attend a yoga class, all in French
-Guided city tour in French, guided French language museum visits
-Pop-in on one of the city’s many weekend language exchanges
-Taxi rides to and from the airportàbonus time speaking with the driver
-Intentionally get lost and try to find my way back to the hostel
Why Montreal? And why 48 hours?
The short answer is, the place has directly flights from my home city—and it’s much cheaper to get there than it is to get to Paris. I also don’t have much time to travel at this point of the year as I will be in school. 48 hours, I feel, gives me enough time to get a taste of the city and sense of how good of a grasp on French I’ve gotten through self-study.
Isn’t French different in Montreal?
Yes, the accent is different. And so isn’t the vocabulary. For me, that’s part of the fun. But I have plenty of Quebecker friends who’ve helped me become accustomed to their accent—and I don’t think the accent will be that much of a barrier for me to overcome.
How I got here
I’ve been learning French on my own for the past seven months. It’s been quite a journey filled with its own ups and downs, and I feel as though I’ve learned quite a bit along the way. I began by using all the free resources I could find online by memorizing different words and phrases.
Soon after, I started to work my way through five different Pimsleur courses, and an Assimil French course for Spanish speakers. I found regular language exchanges with people I met online at italki.com and meetup.com. I made frequent use of flash cards, frequency dictionaries and French tv shows and movies to help me get to where I’m at now—comfortable speaking conversationally. I also find that I can understand most of what people say in social situations. Not too bad for seven months. But I think based off this experience, I can do better in the future.
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