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my french story | mon histoire française

bronwen norris

Photo: Bronwen Norris

Photo: Bronwen Norris

Growing up in Brisbane I never imagined I’d have a connection to France. So when I learned French in Year 8 it wasn’t something I took seriously as I never thought I would use the language. But the classes must have sparked something in me to be awakened at a later time. As a 20-something I took some French classes at TAFE and then enrolled at the Alliance française for a term, still not too sure why as I was saving for a house and the cost of travel to Europe was beyond me. 

And then having achieved my goals of a house and some career success I had time to think about what I wanted to do and Europe became a magnet. It still took me some time to convince my husband, Gray, that he would like holidaying in Europe and that he could spare that much time away from work but finally we took our first UK/Europe holiday in 2000. Gray was immediately taken by France and decided that life was for living. Since that time we have visited France most years and even managed to buy a small village house as our home away from home. 

Over the next few years I enrolled in French courses a few times but my French never seemed to progress beyond the basics. I was always nervous and it really felt like school all over again. Then I stumbled upon Lingua Franca and found their approach suited me, and my lifestyle, so much better. I’ve done various courses with them and this year I’m tackling the Diplôme d'Etudes en Langue Française (DELF B1) with a group of three others. 

The reason I love learning French is two-fold. Firstly, I grew up in 70s Queensland so amongst my cohort the fact I have a second language is a bit different and I like the fact that in the end living in such a remote country didn’t mean I had to be mono-lingual. Secondly, we’ve now had the place in France for 12 years and I just get such a kick out of seeing the looks on my French neighbours’ faces each time I return and the positive comments they make about my progress, particularly recently.

Learning French has also benefitted me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. For example I couldn’t have conceived that the mining company I was working for would acquire a French-speaking company and need people to ensure that all communications were correctly produced in both English and French. While my French wasn’t at a level at the time to do the actual translation work, I was able to help the software developers distinguish between a field into which one enters data and a field where cows chew their cuds. Handy indeed! 

le chouchou | teacher's pet

jessica white

Name/nom: Jessica White

Age/âge: 39

Level/Niveau: Intermediate Transition

LF: Jess, quelle est ta profession?

JW: I am an academic and a writer. I’ve published two novels and currently I have a postdoctoral fellowship to write about Georgiana Molloy, a nineteenth century West Australian botanist. I’m trying to use her story to raise awareness of environmental problems and climate change.

LF: Pourquoi tu étudies le français?

JW: I have a vision of living in Paris for a year to write a novel and shop in the boutiques, and to see the golden light of Provence. French is also très romantique!

LF: Ton mot préféré en français?

JW: Ah, that is a difficult question – there are so many beautiful words in French! I would say that my favourite word is papillon, which means ‘butterfly’. A number of native pea flowers in Western Australia were given the family name Papilionaceae because they look like butterflies.

LF: Est-ce que le français est difficile?

JW: I lost 75% of my hearing to meningitis when I was four which makes learning French quite difficult, mostly because the words are so soft and fluid (as opposed to Italian, the sounds of which are quite distinct, or sign language, which is fairly straightforward). However, deafness has never stopped me from doing anything, and my best French moments are when (usually after actually having done some homework!) I can finally understand what is before me on the page. It’s thrilling when everything falls into place.

LF: Quel est ton but?

JW: My goal is to read Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary in the original. I love frocks, and some days when I come home and guiltily (and happily!) unwrap my latest purchase, I think that I must have been Emma Bovary in a former life.

LF: Merci Jess et bon courage!

JW: You’re welcome, LF!