The homestay experience itself was just that—an experience. It was truly something that I had never done before, and was definitely out of my comfort zone. I had to speak a foreign language that I had only learned for two years all day long, and learn to get through daily life. To be completely honest, the first couple of days were extremely difficult. Before then, I only had experience speaking French in the classroom, and in reality, as I learned, the French speak very fast, making their speech hard to decipher. Only after about a week in France did I become more comfortable in the language, especially phrases used in day to day life. I felt that although I still needed much more practice with speaking, I was beginning to understand much more than before.
I also learned a lot about French culture, and generally how they live life. Whenever the French greet each other, they faire la bise, which is the classic kiss on each cheek. As I noticed, this is usually not done between two males. Another major aspect of French culture is their cuisine. Of course, we often think of escargot when we consider French delicacies, but bread and cheese is definitely found much more commonly. During my stay with my host family, baguettes were available at every meal, along with an assortment of cheeses at dinner (some of which were very smelly). I also had the interesting experience of visiting a cheese factory called La Farto, where reblochon (a type of cheese) is made.
Finally, the last three days of my trip was spent in Paris, the city known across the world. We visited all of the common tourist destinations. Notre Dame, the Champs-Élysées, the Arc of Triumph, the Palace of Versailles, the Louvre, and went on a tour of the Eiffel Tower, concluded by a boat tour on the River Seine. Pro tip: it is definitely worth it to go all the way to the top of the Tower. The time we were in France was when the train system was on strike, making things somewhat more difficult for us. Even Versailles was on strike the first time we tried to go, and the catacombs were closed all together. Nonetheless, it was a wonderful trip experience that I enjoyed very much. Also, a word of advice: Pick-pockets are common in France, especially in Paris. Always keep an eye on your bag, and do not sign any forms offered to you on the streets; those people might steal from you while you are distracted.
For anyone that might be going to France, here are some useful words and phrases that I learned during my stay. While many French speak English, residents living in big cities like Paris are often sick of tourists, so it’s always good to know some French basics. Enjoy, and bon voyage!
1. Bonjour/Salut>>Hello/Hi (also means a casual “bye”)
Let’s start off with a easy greeting.
2. Je m’en fiche/Je m’en fou>>I don’t care (formal/less formal)
This one was one of my favorite phrases to use with my hostess.
3. Je vous en prie/De rien>>You’re welcome (formal/informal)
Just being polite.
4. Je n’ai pas faim>>I’m not hungry
I was told by my French teacher that the French do not say “I am full” when they are finished eating. Instead, they say I am not hungry (anymore). I could not figure out if that was actually true or not.
5. truc>>stuff (informal)
I heard everyone say this so often that I had to ask. It’s just a less formal way of saying “quelque chose.”
6. ça marche>>it works
7. Je plaisante>>I’m joking
Let’s just say, my hostess and I talked to each other very jokingly and sarcastically, so this came in handy.
Sometimes mothers tell their kids to skateboard slowly down the street.
9. On y va>>let’s go!
10. Ça suffit!>>>That’s enough!
I heard my hostess tell this to her dogs…
11. Je suis content(e)…>>I’m happy to…
Usually we say “I am excited to do ” in English. But don’t say je suis excite(e) in French. Just don’t.
12. Oh la la!
Very French exclamatory phrase.
13. ça va mieux>>it’s better.
14. Bon journée>>Have a good day!
This is mostly used when leaving a shop and thanking someone and wishing them well.
15. Est-ce qu’on peut tutoyer?>>Can I address you with “tu”?
Since “tu” is the informal way of addressing someone, the French, being very polite, would ask for permission to address each other with “tu” instead of “vous” if they are not close.
For nearly three weeks this summer, I spent my time in the beautiful nation of France. This was not only a travel experience, but a learning experience as well. I participated in this trip as part of a school-led exchange program, with the aim of engaging cross-cultural contact and immersion in a foreign language. Throughout my time in France, I feel that I gained a vast amount of knowledge that I otherwise may never have acquired merely in a school-style academic environment. I would like to share some of the highlights of my trip, my reflections, and perhaps some advice for anyone that may be traveling to France in the near future.
The first two weeks of my stay in France involved a homestay experience with a French family in the town of Thônes, Haute-Savoie (as I learned, “Haute-Savoie” is actually an example of one of the regions in France, sort of like a province or state). Thônes is located in the east of France, close to the Alps, and where France, Switzerland, and Italy meet. The area featured a lake with beautifully clear waters and mountains covered in greenery. Throughout the two weeks, I participated in various activities: bowling, shopping, hiking, movie watching, boating, and of course, tasting the many French delicacies. Evidently, though the town was not big, there was no shortage of things to do, and the many small shops were always bustling with activity.
By Jiachen Sun