can you hear me now?

A first for my French lesson this afternoon: it was over the phone. I signed up for it knowing that it’s hard as heck to understand another language over the phone. But as it approached, I actually got nervous about it. I even contemplated canceling because I have a cold, but that seemed just too lame.

When the time came, I dialed up the number and was put through to the teacher. It’s a teacher I have often, so that was a relief.

For the next half-hour, I stumbled through explaining what I miss about the US and what I like about Grenoble to him. It’s an exercise he’s probably had me do half a dozen times before, but it’s different in person. On the phone, you can’t act things out. It’s harder to ask for help when you get stuck. And it’s harder to understand the words you’re offered up because you can’t see them written out. So… I tried to explain March Madness to him. All he knows about basketball is that Tony Parker is French and married to one of the Desperate Housewives. I tried to explain the benefits of walking down the street with a cup of coffee. I had trouble coming up with what I like about living here. Mostly because it’s his turf, and I knew he could call me on it if I was just making stuff up. You can embellish a little if need be when carrying on about the United States.

Still, to my amazement, the half-hour sped by. And to my amazement, I’d understood far more of what he’d said than I’d expected. Of course, he spoke far more slowly than your average receptionist. And that is the person I need to be able to talk to on the phone. Well, it’s a start.

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