As many of you already know, French is spoken equally to English in Montreal, and it's dominant in a lot of the outer-lying areas of Quebec. We knew this before we moved, but for some reason, I hadn't really noticed on our previous visit how French was the default language for almost everything here. Street signs, billboards, metro station instructions, advertisements...the list goes on. Everyone speaks English as well (especially in the service industry), but people often begin speaking in French before they know you're terrible at it.
As mentioned before, we took private lessons with a tutor in Atlanta for several months leading up to our move. The lessons helped a lot, especially with our reading comprehension. I can understand signage in French that I could have never comprehended before. However, my speaking and listening comprehension skills are still quite terrible, and once I get the first simple sentence or question out, I'm pretty much done. I tried to order 2 coffees (one regular, once iced) at Tim Horton's last week, and somehow ended up with one iced coffee with cream. Fantastic. Thankfully, that's pretty close to Marny's beverage of choice, so rather than embarrassingly go back to the counter for another attempt, I went sans café. On our 3rd day here, we walked to PF Chang's for dinner, and I asked for a table for 2 in French. The host's reply: "English menu?" Yes, the English menu. Sigh.
In all fairness, we didn't really put enough time into our lesson homework while we were still in Atlanta. We had a lot on our plates during those months with jobs plus planning for the move, and it was difficult to get motivated to practice. I compared it to practicing guitar in your bedroom vs. playing in a real band - it's boring and tedious, but if you don't do it, you'll be in trouble once you hit that first note. Well, that's kind of where we are with French. We didn't do enough bedroom practice, and now that we're in the band, our first notes sound worse than jazz.
Thankfully, everyone speaks English here, so we can keep on being ugly americains for as long as we want. However, we really want to learn, and we know we will need the skills for employment purposes (especially if we're dealing with the public in any fashion). I've already learned a lot of new words in 2 weeks, so now I just need to figure out how to make sentences with them. The Quebec government offers free French classes for new residents, so we plan on taking those when they start in the fall. In the meantime, we plan on reviewing our lesson books and trying to learn as much as we can by immersion. It's not easy, but all we can do is try (and fail). Bonne chance à nous!
In the meantime, I'll leave you with this. A bientôt!