When I moved to France to be with my French Husband, I was nearly thirty years old. I spoke a handful, or less of French words. To make matters worse when I met my French Husband, he spoke a handful of English words. It made life interesting, arguments few, and kissing often.
I learned how to speak French on the streets you might say. Funny how French words are everywhere when you live in France, they scream at you, insult your senses and in the beginning I carried two books with me where ever I went:
1) An English/French dictionary,
I was lost in more ways than one.
I bought sour milk instead of milk, powder sugar instead of sugar, sunscreen instead of tooth paste...spices where easy I could smell the words I did not know.
Early on when I lived in Paris I took care of a little girl named Emeline. The family had lived in the states for a few years and had returned to France. They wanted their five year old to keep her English language skills alive, so they hired me...an English speaking babysitter you might say. I went to their large Parisian apartment twice a week.
A few weeks after I started, I picked Emeline up from school and we were to walk home. As we walked along Paris I realized how happy I was to have SOMEONE to speak English to, someone who could carry a conversation at normal tempo, someone who I did not have to repeat my words to...yes she was five and I was thirty... but she was the only one who I knew who spoke English, and I did not care if we talked about Barbies, cookies, braiding hair, or what color to color Rudolf's nose... it was Happy English.
On the way home we got lost. I looked around for a street sign so I could look it up in my Paris Street Plan, but no sign made itself available...we kept walking I kept looking, at one point Emeline summed it up in a nutshell:
"WE are lost! This is terrible... I am just little and you do not speak French! We are doomed."
Of course we weren't but her expression summed up exactly how I felt in the beginning. Moving to France was a much larger challenge than I ever had imagined. Learning French did not come easily, the struggle of not speaking the language has made for a ton of memories most quite embarrassing.