Yes, you read correctly. My French is, in fact, a snail.
It is progressing at a glacial pace, leaving a silver ribbon of rolled-eyes, confusion and snickers in its wake.
But the speed of my progress wasn’t what gave birth to this metaphor. My French has been getting better, and I’ve been getting more confident, due to the Conversation Exchanges I’ve been doing. However, I didn’t realise how fragile this confidence was.
Last weekend I was leaving La Villette to look at a room to rent. As I was walking to the metro, a man interrupted me. After some pleasantries, I told him that I needed to leave to see the room, but he insisted that I stay and tell him about Melbourne and Australia, how my homeland is different to Paris, whether I like Paris, etc.
This would have been fine – he seemed nice and it was an opportunity for me to practice my French. However, he continuously corrected me. He would repeat every sentence in the way I should have said it, and I eventually left feeling as though my French was terrible and I’d been getting nowhere.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of constructive criticism. But by constantly bombarding me he basically poked the escargot that is my French with a fork, and it has retreated back under its shell.
Now I’m trying to be very gentle, so that I might coax it to venture out again and continue its slow trail through poorly conjugated verbs and adjectives that don’t agree with their nouns.