Honestly I'm quite ashamed of how useless my french is, because we go to France most years and I should be better. Or I should at least have a go. I let my husband do the talking when we're there, because he's good, and has a knack of sounding like he knows what he's talking about even when he doesn't (arch-bluffer)
French with Paul Noble
But I can't chicken out this trip - my husband's not going to be with us, well not until the last few weeks. So after rifling through Amazon reviews, I've got myself yet another box set of teach yourself french CD's. There have been quite a few of these over the years. This one is called French with Paul Noble and it says promising things on the box like, 'Minimum input, Maximum results' - all stuff I like to hear.
I know my experiences are pretty typical: poor teaching at school, fear of grammar, lack of confidence and a general feeling that I'm a total numpty at languages. A no-hoper.
Mr Noble mightn't have the most animated voice in the world, but once you've got over that his teaching method sounds like it's geared to people like me. There's no emphasis on learning grammar or vocab, in fact one of the first things he says is he'd rather you didn't try to memorise each lesson.
Forgetting what you've just been taught might sound a bit odd, but it takes the pressure off - and his idea, his master plan is that by the end of the course you'll remember naturally without over-thinking. And I am a language over-thinker. I get so worried about making a mistake that I end up spluttering and mumbling incoherently or say nothing at all. I just panic and my mind goes blank. So I'm feeling quite encouraged by Mr Noble - but it's early days. These audio courses tend to promise the earth, and the eternal optimist in me desperately wants to believe it; while the sceptic in me keeps annoyingly pointing out that I've been here before....
But at the very least it's got to help. Maybe this will be the first course I actually finish.
One of the things I've got to learn to say is, 'Do you know if there is anywhere near here that has free WIFI?' , or something along those lines. I'd like to blog a bit while we're away because 5 weeks is a long time, but have no idea how easy that's going to be. I looked into getting one of those roaming dongle things for my laptop, but when I mentioned where I was going and what I'd be doing, even the eager-beaver sales rep sucked in his breath and said that would be seriously expensive. Looking online I've found out a few useful things, like 'free' doesn't mean free or 'gratuit' in France, it's actually the name of an internet service provider; WIFI is pronounced Wee-Fee; and McDonald's is apparently a top spot for free wireless internet. If anyone has any tips or experiences of trying to hook up to the internet in France, I'd love to hear them.
Goose Fat and Garlic
My other plan when we're away is to try a little regional cooking. I bought this book of recipes from south west France, in a fantastic secondhand bookshop in Hay-on-Wye.
....Admittedly it doesn't have the most catchy title, but flicking through there are many tempting recipes, all written in a lovely relaxed style and laced together with interesting facts and stories about the region.
In the part of the Lot et Garonne where we're staying the specialities are duck, wild boar, prunes and foie gras. Now this wouldn't be my top list of ingredients.... ever since I was told how foie gras is made I haven't been able to eat it; I don't often cook with duck and have never used wild boar. I can do prunes though.
But it's obvious from the book that there's a great deal more to french cooking in the south west, so I'm keen to give it a go. If I can 'get connected' I'll post the recipes we try.
There's a whole chapter on cassoulet. The kids mightn't go a storm on garlic soup, but I'm sure they'd like cassoulet.
I'll also be bringing my crochet with me - still a lot more granny squares to go before I'm anywhere near a blanket....and there's those eight paintings I need to do before the amateur Art Exhibition in september.
I'm not quite sure why I think being in a different place is magically going to make all this possible, given that I'll also have three bouncy, busy kids to entertain....