Sink or Swim

by Elaine

Placed for a year in a convent school in Paris, direct from Atlanta Georgia, I needed to learn French immediately since no one in the school spoke any English (this was shortly after WWII). Somehow I managed, proving that total immersion is both useful and painful, and that the brain is capable of great feats if the need is there.

Within 6 weeks, I could take dictee (that mainstay of a French education) at about a C grade level and learnt the order of Mass even though I had never met a Catholic in my life. This had the added benefit of exposing me to Latin since reform had not struck the church.

The most interesting thing about it all was that when I finally got back to Paris in 2003, what I had learned at 11 years of age (and never used again) came haltingly back, like a short-wave broadcast. I was delighted and able to get directions in Metro stations. It's a wonderful and expressive language and while I suffered terribly at the time, I'd have to say it was worth it.

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