Monday, October 24, 2011

Missionary Kid Monday: Language School

{For more on this series, click here}

It was Year One on the mission field for us: Language School. We lived in a sort of compound with all the other families who were learning French for missionary work. While the grown-ups were sweating it out, learning to be fluent in a second language, my siblings and I (along with all the other kids on the compound) were sent to the local public school. It was my second grade year.

The language school was in Albertville (in the southeast of France)

In the mornings, we gathered in a special classroom where we were explicitly taught French. My teacher knew precisely two words in English: "shut" and "up". I wish to goodness I remembered how they taught us French. I vaguely remember picture slides of various scenes, then the teacher telling us stories about the slides. Then we wrote the stories down in a notebook.

In the early days, I remember playing outside at recess and trying to have a conversation with some French girls. I was getting increasingly frustrated because I didn't know how to say a specific word. My friends were being so helpful: guessing random words and asking me "Is it this? This? This? This?" Not surprisingly, they never did figure it out.

In the afternoons, we were mainstreamed into the regular French classrooms for math. Because, duh, everyone speaks numbers and there surely isn't any need to understand the words around the numbers. I was confused and embarrassed when the teacher jumped right into subtraction WITH BORROWING. And I had never seen that before and had no concept of what the heck borrowing was. And since they do their math all funny in France, it wasn't until I was in the States for college that I understood about hundreds, tens, and ones.


But I survived the trauma and I magically spoke French pretty fluently by the end of that school year. In fact, it had become so natural to speak it that I would start using it around the house with my sister and brother. Sometimes it would be come "Frenglish".

My parents tried to outlaw French at home.... they claimed they were worried we would lose our English. But I think maybe they were just jealous of our flawless accents!

{For more, tune in next Monday!}


  1. Fun! I took French immersion in middle school, grades 7-9. I remember the teachers walking in, introducing themselves in English, then saying from now on, all they would speak would be French!! Ahhhh!! It was a challenge, especially Science and Math class, but we all learned...very quickly!!

  2. haha. I remember it taking me forever to figure out the hundreds, tens and ones. I think teachers try to complicate things on purpose!! :) And I didn't even have to learn it in another country!!!

  3. Oh man, I'm so sorry about having such a hard time in classes. That would be so rough!

  4. I wish I had the chance to learn a language that young! I took French all four years of high school and I'm pretty good at reading and translating, but ask me to form a sentence and I'm done. I think if I have kids I'd get them started in a second language as early as possible. It's such a great skill to have!

  5. That's so crazy! What amazing experiences you've had!

    French never made any sense to me. I took alot of spanish in school, but don't have a whole lot to show for it. I can usually get the gist of a conversation, but speaking it is a whole different story.

    Can you still speak french today?

  6. What a gift to learn a language that way. I struggled through it in high school and have retained nothing. I'm loving these stories!

  7. I hated math in school. It was my worst subject. I wish we could pick up a new language as easily as children can. I learned enough German to get by when we lived there but never did speak it fluently.