Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Je m'appelle Madame Kelly

Today was day 1 of intensive French class at the Alliance Francaise. The 10 mile drive took over an hour as there was a lot of traffic in the middle of the day.

There are 12 students, with classmates from Germany, Brazil, Paraguay, Guinea, Angola, Spain and Gambia. There was another American, Alicia, who was born in Uganda and raised in Indiana. In fact, she arrived in Dakar the same day I did.

I knew that she and I would hit it off when it was my turn to introduce myself to the class in French. Alicia leaned over and whispered, 'You go girl'. As of yet, I have not found too many English speakers here in Dakar, and those that do have a beautiful and quite 'formal' tongue as it is usually their second language. 'You go girl' meant that she and I would be able to talk casually and relaxed, which is exactly what we did.

I had always wondered how language teachers teach a specific language without knowing the students native language. Now I know. Our teacher only speaks French. She talks and talks with lots of hand signals and drama to her French words. If you don't understand something you have to shake your head and she will further elaborate in more French that you may, or may not understand.

I have never been so lost. But, I found comfort when I looked around the room and saw 11 other blank stares with jaws touching the ground. At the end of class, Alicia and I left the building together and could not stop laughing. This type of teaching is called immersion; it is the fastest way to learn a language.

Classes are 3 times a week for 3 months. I have only been home and hour and have already completed my homework. Au revoir.


  1. That must be how babies feel when their parents are flapping around trying to teach them words!!

  2. Totally Jodi! I also keep thinking of my ESL students that were mainstreamed into regular classrooms... Now I have even more empathy! xo