(For those who are confused, we are referencing a children's computer game from the early 90's)

The Huang family newsletter

It was a race to the very last minute to get our bags packed and our apartment cleaned, but it happened: our time in France has come to an end. Fortunately for you, that means it’s time for another wildly popular Huang FAQ! (Be forewarned, the questions are short, but the answers are not.)
So how’s your French?

This is by far the most common question we get — and the answer is often not as easy as we’d like to be. We can French it up…but it’s not fluent, it’s not perfect, and we still have a ways to go. Nevertheless, compared to where we were ten months ago, it’s coming. It’s slow and tedious, but it’s coming.
But you lived there for a year! Surely you can understand French pretty well now, right?

Language learning can be broken down into several subsets: listening and reading comprehension, oral and written expression. For the Mandarin speaker learning Cantonese, reading comprehension is easy, but listening and oral expression is the challenge. For the English speaker learning Swahili, speaking is often easier, but reading comprehension is more difficult. For us as French learners, we found listening easier than speaking, and reading easier than writing. (Though in certain situations the reverse is true.)

Our ability to function in French seems to fluctuate widely. In some respects, we can work at about the 7th grade level: we can read novellas, give short, extemporaneous speeches, conduct small debates, and discuss current events. We can name and discuss the finer grammatical points of verb conjugations and complex relative pronouns better than many native French speakers.

Our teacher Cécile, who was the first to patiently and repeatedly explain to us many of the rules of French grammar

Then we would come home for lunch and listen to Radio France International’s Journal en Français Facile. It’s a 10-minute radio recap of the day’s news, ostensibly recorded for French learners in “easy French”. We disagree with its title. It is not easy. If we’re reading the transcript alongside the broadcast, we can understand maybe 80-90% of it; but if we’re just listening, our comprehension dips significantly.

Sometimes, it seems even worse, like we’re no better than a 6-year-old. We only need to watch some Netflix TV shows in French with our son to experience the humiliation. Even though the shows are designed for young children, the French will often times whiz past our ears, never to be fully comprehended or digested.

The long-suffering Catherine, our main teacher for the entire past year, who brought us from neophytes to slightly-less-neophytic French speakers

Do you guys dream in French?

We get this question often, as if dreaming in French portends the sign of true fluency. We can’t say we dream in French, though we often dream of French. Typically the dream involves sitting in French class, struggling to find the words to express ourselves while the teacher glares at us, waiting and listening expectantly. Much like the deepest levels of dreaming in Inception, it is occasionally difficult to differentiate between the dream world and the real one.

Kimberley's two language partners, Caroline and Denise, during a farewell dinner we hosted for them. (The reason for Nolan's nudity is unclear.)

So, what did you think of living in France?

Before coming to France, we sort of thought of language school as a pit stop: come for a year, pick up the language, and get on our way to our “real” destination, where we’ll do our “real” work. It’s what many of our friends had done before, and so we just sort of saw it as a rite of passage, a gap-year of language learning fun. Maybe afterwards we could go to the local university and take a DELF Pro exam, or maybe we could go visit Montréal and take the SEFOP from the OQLF, qualifying us for medical licensure in Québec (not that we have a great desire to practice in Québec…but it would be cool to say that we could do so, if we so wanted).

French immersion language school: it would be like taking the Oregon Trail, with a stop in Independence, Missouri, to fill our covered wagons with the necessary supplies before heading out west.

Now that we’re at the end of our language school year, it has become abundantly evident that the metaphor has broken down quickly. One just doesn’t “pick-up” the French language as you would “pick-up” some groceries or “pick-up” some medication for dysentery. This year has given us a good foundation in French, but it is merely that: a foundation. Though we have (thankfully!) passed our final (B1.2) exams at school, the successful completion of a year of French school does not equate to French fluency, or even mediocre French competency. In fact, we honestly wouldn’t have minded another year in France to soak up more of the language and its accompanying culture. Nevertheless, our year in France has given us, shall we say, a license to learn; and we anticipate continued learning over the months and years ahead.

anDrew's language partner Romain, his wife Angélique, and his beautiful daughters, hosted us for a farewell dinner at his place.

And now...for some family pictures!

Nolan's best friend Toby left several days before we did. It was bittersweet to see him and his family go, though Nolan seems to think Burundi is just around the corner from Gabon.
Despite repeatedly singing "London Bridge Is Falling Down" recently, Nolan was in no mood to actually sing and dance in front of the famed bridge during our layover in London.
On an Airbus A380, Solène gets prepped in her bassinet for her first ever long-haul flight.
We've made it to our first destination: Canada! The kids are still getting over jetlag, but we were able to enjoy a morning at the Vancouver Aquarium.
We're on the road! To check out where we're traveling and how to see us, click on our most recent newsletter: We're coming to a continent near you!

Or check out these other recent newsletters:
When butchering a language...
Spring break support report

French should be easy!
The question we get asked a lot by our doctor friends...
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Here's a FAQ of what we're up to (from June 2017)
Read more about why we're raising support
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Copyright © 2018 The Huang Dynasty, All rights reserved.

This newsletter is about Andrew, Kimberley, Nolan, Solène and Ewen Huang, and their time in France, Gabon, and beyond.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely ours, and they do not necessarily represent those of Samaritan's Purse or World Medical Mission.

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