About a month ago, I traded dinner for a French lesson. The act of trading dinner or a coffee for a little help with my accent and vocabulary is quickly becoming one of my favorite pastimes while I’m here in NOLA. (I’m learning French BTW. But more on that later…)

So the story goes like this…I was cleaning up from my dinner service on Friday night at the hostel and two ladies came up to ask for dinner. I had already packed everything in for the night, but wanted to help them out so I ran into the staff fridge and grabbed some of the leftovers I was planning on sharing with my co-workers. The dinner wasn’t super hot and was missing the garnish so I didn’t charge them the $5 a plate. Instead, noticing their French accents, I asked them to spend a few minutes speaking with me if we found a chance later on. I cleaned up and probably went out to hear some jazz music, which is another of my favorite pastimes here in the Big Easy.

Two days later, as I was eating what was left of the red beans’n’rice, one of the ladies found me and gave me a French lesson. It was really good because she forced me to only answer her questions en Française. ( A painfully slow process.) Later we were joined by her friend and we all chatted for a few more minutes. (I was exhausted after the lesson.) One of the gals told me she would be happy to correspond with me to help me continue to progress and we all went on our ways for the day.

Fast-forward a week or two and I saw this message in French pop up in my Facebook inbox. I was excited to read it and see what I understood, but as I was attempting to open the message I slid something the wrong way on my phone and deleted it! How the heck did I do that you ask? The day before I had switched my phone settings to French to help me with my quest of mastering the language. However, I obviously didn’t comprehend what the heck I was sliding on the phone because I never meant to delete the message. Of course, I don’t have her contact information, because I only gave mine at the time we talked and I don’t remember her name because it was something really French that I had a hard time saying. So here I am attempting to apologize with never responding to the message .

Merci pour le message. Je suis vraiment désolé que je ne répondais pas au message.

The main reason you haven’t heard much from the Lewis, Clark and Mark trio, is every chance I get I’m working on my French. I promise to start writing more soon, but right now my main focus is spending as much time as possible with all of the French travelers passing through the hostel. I decided to do something productive with my winter break from bicycle touring and prepare for more adventures in the future. I’m planning to return to Montréal at some point and a bike tour through France, too. What better way to spend time off the bike than preparing for time on the bike in different countries?

I definitely don’t have a knack for learning new languages- just ask anyone that has tried to help me with my Spanish- but when I actually decide to do something, I do it. (For example: quitting job and traveling around on a bicycle.) I’m making steady progress and am experiencing such a feeling of satisfaction every time I have a breakthrough and understand something or say something that I hadn’t been able to before. I’ll share the technique I’ve created for others such as myself who can’t just pick up a book and figure it out.

Jusqu’à la prochaine fois!

The main thing that helps me with my learning is my cell phone. It’s super easy to find apps and have access to a variety of lessons anytime or anywhere. I have a couple of word of the day apps, translation apps, Duolingo, a radio app for music and conversation and Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone is the only one I paid for and it’s well worth it. (The online subscription can be used on multiple devices and really suits my needs)
Every morning I start my day listening to the news on my radio app. I also subscribe to “one thing in a French day” and “The news in slow French”. Those are two podcasts that are about my current level.
I’m now corresponding with two friends in France and I use Google Translator to help me break apart their messages and create mine. Not perfect, but it gets the job done.
This is a screenshot of one of my Rosetta Stone exercises. There is never any English used with Rosetta Stone. They use the immersion technique and it really seems to be working.
Most importantly, I do my best to meet native French speakers and have them speak to me and help correct my speech. You can’t be shy when learning a new language. You have to try to dive in as much as possible. I’ve definitely been embarrassing myself a lot lately, but it has helped immensely with my skills and its made me quite a few new friends, too.