When I left off my last update, I fast-forwarded through seven years of non-use of my french at work. Non-use is a bit of an exaggeration, I use it occasionally, but I certainly don’t “work” in French. More like active listening in meetings. It’s even worse over the last 10 years as I’m working in planning. Almost all planning in government is done in English. I had a francophone director previously, and even he said he didn’t know any of the french terms for the various documents. Phrases like the Program Activity Architecture, now the Program Alignment Architecture, are shortened in speaking even in French to “le PAA” even though the french acronym is simply the inverse (AAP). But nobody says the words that spell out PAA or AAP, and even francophones pronounced the acronym as just the letters P-A-A (not pay-ah-ah). Sad, but true. None of the inputs I receive are written in french, none of the drafts coming from other branches are in french. Once they reach a certain degree of “finality”, they are all translated, but francophones face a daunting level of anglo-ization in the planning world.
I still suck at what I call short-term transactional french. Simple interactions, short bursts, with admin staff for example are really challenging for me…I’ve always struggled that my french improves after about 3-5 minutes, but if the interaction lasts only 1 or 2, how do you “improve”? My brain just doesn’t shift that fast, no matter the tips I use or tricks I try. It would be better in a fully immersive world, I imagine, but I’m not there.
And honestly, I haven’t made the effort. My retention is still great, I can follow along in meetings, and when I strap myself in to start thinking in french, I can mentally structure entire conversations. But I struggle to have the courage to actually use it. A block that I’ve never gotten over.
Now, my levels are REALLY expired for writing and oral, and while I will have little trouble getting my written back to normal (B), I know my oral will be a challenge. The tests have also changed, which may improve things for most people, but the practice versions I have done have been a struggle — one had me completely confused as I didn’t know the word “plante” actually exists in french….I thought the woman was saying “plainte” (complaint), couldn’t for the life of me why she was asking people to look after her “complaints” while she was vacation, nobody was covering her files, yet it seemed her problem to solve, not her boss’ problem to assign someone. Not a good omen. Simple, but a challenge.
We’ve reclassified positions at my level now from BBB requirements to all of them being CBC — meaning I need the C for mobility too. Honestly, I’d be happy to retire from my current job in 10 years time if my reporting structure was relatively stable, as I like the work, and I’m good at it, plus I’m not looking to move. But with a bunch of potentially large-scale changes coming my way, I need to recertify my french levels again.
As with previous attempts, I feel like I need to take control again. I was using DuoLingo back in January, and I’m going to re-start using that again, but I also feel like I need a way to write down some “notes”, so to speak, to document certain things for myself. Hence, why I started writing about my french — I’m going to blog my way through my re-certification process, from low-level beginner back to moderately fluent. Wish me luck…