So, there’s a week between Christmas and New Year’s Day that a place like FSI has no idea how to handle. Most people want to take vacation, but how to handle those who don’t? Most of the instructors want to be elsewhere.
Well, there is unstructured study, but you have to physically do it at FSI, so, for example, if you want to spend the week practicing the language in, say, where they speak it (like Quebec…or France) you have to take leave. Which I did.
I chose Montreal over Paris because it took fewer frequent flyer miles to get there. My plan was to see the city, try to speak as much French as possible, and take a break. I’d stay in a local B&B to speak French with the owners at breakfast and get a bit of local culture.
The results were mixed.
Ultimately, I won’t know the results until I pass (or don’t) French. I did speak a lot of French and watch a lot of French TV (I’ve now seen the same Mythbusters episode in three different language versions). I learned local TV news covers the same fires and car crashes no matter the language. The B&B experiment didn’t work because the owner wasn’t interested in being a host, and pretty much left me on my own. Overall, I think it helped, but not as much as it might have if a few more things had fallen into place.
Montreal was nice, but I think I like Ottawa better. I think it’s more livable, although Montreal’s mass transit has a lot to recommend it.
You can’t trust the weatherman either place. The forecast was (at various times) — mild all week, wind chills near 35 below, a foot of snow, freezing rain, and just about everything but sunny and 70 degrees (well, everything is Celsius, so that would be sunny and 21 degrees).
I did make a lot of use of French language television, particularly the news. If you watch their equivalent of CNN, they’ll repeat the same stories several times over the course of an hour which helps you pick up understanding over time. Watching US TV shows (NCIS, Stargate) dubbed into French gives you the advantage of knowing more of less what’s going on and using context to aid understanding the French.
Happy New Year!