Free French VI

Zero Point:
Kilomètre 0
Ministère des Transports
QUÉBEC, Canada
November 6, 2012

I just finished the third and last of this term's final exams: the oral interview. I was genuinely surprised by my results.

I had expected to do well across all areas. Each test was given on a different day: a written comprehension exam, an hour-and-a-half of composition, and the individual oral evaluation. I've always done well on the dictations and have little problem following new grammar points so assumed I would do best on the composition and fare worst on the spoken test.

What surprised me was that my strengths were in complete reverse order of how I'd thought they'd turn out. Monsieur C. just gave me feedback detailing how my speaking ability is superior to the two other areas of competence. Really? When speaking I'd always felt as if I'd just been opening up my mouth and allowing whatever happened to slip off my tongue fall out despite being inattentive to grammar and structure. I'd assumed he'd slam me for making lots of verbal errors let alone my pronunciation and my accent. But, evidently my instructor rates my verbal abilities more highly than any other aspect of my French. What a nice way to end the term.

Even before taking these exams I did feel things coming together. I often found myself in that pleasant state of feeling the language gelling, recently. French is starting to flow if not quite yet fluid. More often I can articulate what I want without struggling for the right word. Less often do I need to systematically structure out a sentence in my head before speaking. My French is becoming more active and alive than theoretical. But, despite this tangible evidence of progress it still doesn't seem like the second term of this academic year of study can have already finished. Didn't I only just begin learning this language?

Happy as I am with my progress and exam results I've decided to take advantage of the one-week break we'll have off between terms. Naturally, I'll be back out on-the-go again, escaping to areas where French is not spoken. I'm hitting the road tomorrow for a little cross-border jaunt. I feel entitled to relax and speak a little English for my free days before Term III of Free French commences.

There's been more than just the end of the term keeping me busy. In both other travel-related news and in another pleasant surprise, Lina happened to be passing through town. She's the one who opened a hostel in Vilnius where I loved staying this summer. (Not solely though at least in-part as she provided a traditional homemade Lithuanian cake on my birthday.) This past month she made her first trip to the Americas. Lina hadn't been planning to come up to Canada. She'd planned to stay solely on the U.S. east coast. But, Hurricane Sandy cancelled her return flight--and that of everybody else who was flying back to Europe that day. Lina wound up calling on a friend in Montréal then taking a couple days here in Québec City.

It's been enjoyable not just to see a face familiar from elsewhere but to feel that I've become knowledgable enough to share something of the depth of history of the area. We've spent the last couple days catching up and strolling around town. Québec City is a great place to have people pass through. I've grown more adept at playing tour guide taking friends and friends-of-friends around the walls, towers, and viewpoints of the old city. In my half year here I have already seen more people happening through this town than where I lived in China over four years. I suppose it is a lot easier to get to the YQB than to the URC from most places.

Now I need to pack my bag to get ready for my own time out on the road. I've strung together a route that will take me through Montréal and Toronto then finally cross down into the U.S. at Niagara Falls.

Next stop: Buffalo