My husband moved to the USA after we met, so we spoke only in English from the beginning. After years of speaking together in English it was hard to switch to French when we moved to France. My vocabulary was limited so he had to help me on nearly every sentence. We continued only speaking in English while I learned French independently.
To help prepare me for the OFCII welcoming appointment, my husband announced that we would only speak in French. He has said this many times over the years so I doubted it would last over 15 minutes. Surprisingly, he stuck to it. He was so persistent and unrelenting that I began to wonder if I could find a way to get him to apply this same energy into cleaning the house.
I did not realize the emotional toll it would take on me the first week. It was not only the mistakes that I made, it was that I could not communicate everything I wanted to say. I would be stopped each time a correction needed to be made and lose my train of thought. I found myself not talking to my husband as much as before because I did not have the energy to go through it.
The first day was the best. It was fun and I was very happy to get all of the corrections from my husband. He listened patiently as I spoke and helped me along when I needed it. It was the longest we ever spoke in French together. I was looking forward to the next day and imagining myself speaking fluently soon to my neighbors.
The second day I was still happy about speaking French all the time, but I started getting annoyed by all of my husband’s corrections. It drove me crazy when he would correct me on a small grammar mistake during a sentence. I often lost my train of thought and forget what I was talking about or trying to say.
The third day I got so annoyed that I went on strike. I found my husband extremely irritating and I refused to speak in French – sometimes even refusing in English. Whenever I spoke in English, he would tell me he did not understand and needed to speak in French. I spoke only in English from the afternoon into the evening. It was his choice if he wanted to pretend that he did not understand English. At least I could express my irritation with him accurately.
The fourth day I calmed down and got back into speaking French. We found a nicer balance with him making corrections. He only corrected me on large mistakes, such as word choice or conjugation. If I made a mistake of “le” vs “la,” I did not want to hear about it at this point. He was also no longer correcting me mid-sentence, but at least waiting until I finished a thought. We will work on the smaller mistakes during our formal French lessons on the weekends and later when I am no longer making the larger mistakes.
From then on, the only challenge was to remember to speak in French. If we went a long time during the day without speaking, I would automatically speak in English. I still speak in English with my daughter, Juliana, so sometimes I would talk to her and then say something to my husband in English. I do not want to speak to her in French because I have read that it is best to speak to the child in your native language. This way she will not pick up on my mistakes and it is the only time she is exposed to English. We want her to be bilingual, so I speak to her in English and my husband speaks to her in French.
We are doing formal French lessons on weekends. My husband used to teach French and I took lessons from him occasionally when we lived in the USA and Montreal. I loved our lessons and felt that they helped me a great deal, so I am happy to start doing this again. I am lucky that he has been so patient and persistent with me speaking French on a regular basis. I will definitely gain fluency soon and be able to talk more efficiently with locals. I talk with people in the village almost daily and would like to be able to express myself as I would in English.