so, everyone keeps asking me if I speak French. before I left for Paris, the biggest question was, “do you speak French?”
the answer is simple and complicated. no, I don’t speak French. yes, I studied French and I know a decent amount of French. the thing is, French is incomprehensible if your accent is off. like, in English, someone can say “what is your name” and even if they have an accent, a deep, deep accent from some place that does not speak English, you will probably know what they’re saying.
French is not that way. it’s not as much about the words, as it is about the sounds.
I decided to switch from studying Spanish (four years in middle/high school) to studying French in college because I knew that I wanted to live in France at some point. unfortunately, my college allowed students to self-select their level of proficiency, which resulted in a lot of immediate to advanced students taking French I for an easy A. needless to say, the classes were fast-paced and the true beginners—just me and a handful of other students that I met over the course of three years—never really learned a lot.
anyway, I’m learning French again. but, in the meantime, I’m relying on a handful of iPhone apps to bridge the gap and understand things over here, not just with language:
1) Google translate: obviously useful. You can even speak into it or allow someone else to speak into it. And you can hear how words are pronounced, which is infinitely useful.
2) Currency+: so, my money is in American dollars, but I pay for things over here in euros. This helps me figure out how much I’m actually paying for something. A 2€ cookie sounds decent, but a $2.72 cookie is another story. (or maybe it’s not, but it’s nice to know these things.)
3) Mais Trop!: this is a play on words. “mais trop” doesn’t mean anything in French. (literally, “but very.”) however, it’s pronounced similar to metro, the Parisian transit system. It’s a really cool app that lets you map the most direct way to get somewhere via public transit, so, obvs, indispensable.
4) Metro to US Imperial Converter: today, I tried to bake some salmon. easy peasy, right? wrong. I know how to bake salmon on an American oven using Fahrenheit temperatures. but, how may degrees Celsius should I set the oven in order to have it bake the way I want? same with weighing apples at the grocery store. I normally get one to two pounds of apples, but how many kilograms does that equal? this app is a lifesaver.
travelers! expats! what apps do you use to understand a new place? tell me, tell me, tell me!