There are quite a few goals on my list that are very difficult to quantify in terms of when they are achieved. For example, I recently marked my goal of learning to play the didgeridoo as complete, but I really am still a beginner when compared to some of the Aboriginal didge masters I have seen or heard.
But my playing has improved considerably, and I continue to practice when I can. I learned the technique of circular breathing, which is something I have been unable to do for a long time, although I would never dream of claiming to have mastered the didgeridoo.
As with any such skill, I don’t think there is ever a point when you stop learning and trying to improve, and that is how I view life too, always trying to learn how to play the game a bit better than you could previously!
And my “Learn to speak conversational French” goal is another that is difficult to decide exactly when the goal has been achieved. But over the past year I have had quite a lot more interaction with the French language than I have had in all the years since I left school.
And I really do feel that I have improved. My friend Mel in Perth is originally from France, so I have had some help from her. I spent a couple of weeks in France last year at the start of the 100goals trip, and did my whole paragliding course in French. I met French football coach Philippe Troussier in Japan, and we had quite a lengthy chat in French, which I was very pleased with. (Doug and Mike, who were there as that interview and chat was filmed both reckoned that I could have claimed my French goal as completed there and then! More about that day here.) And now I have been back in France again for the last couple of weeks, visiting the Cannes Film Festival.
I have managed to do pretty-much everything I have needed to in French in the time have been here, including all my day-to-day purchases, as well as the less commonly done things, such as hiring a tuxedo!
But it was actually while wearing the tuxedo that I made my greatest steps forward in conversational French! The movie I watched, called “Fish Tank” was a gritty, real-life, English-slum-housing-estate drama, and as such was liberally sprinkled with some choice expletives!
But one of the best things about the movie was that it was subtitled in French, so the local audience could appreciate it too. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but was somewhat distracted by trying to remember some of the more choice phrases in French.
The next time I spoke to Mel I ran some of my new vocabulary past her, and she was pretty impressed at my top-level French swearing ability. I have two particularly high-level French swear words in my vocabulary now, and have been strongly advised not to try to fit them into any sort of French dinner table chatter!
So while I will be the first to admit that my French conversational abilities are somewhat stilted, on a one-to-one basis, I am certainly able to communicate at a reasonably satisfying level. I can’t possibly keep up with a group of French people chatting together, but can often get a good idea of what they are talking about.
And this morning I fly out of France, having completed my last French-based goal. I don’t imagine I will be back here, or have much more opportunity to speak French for the rest of my 100 weeks, and so am quite happy to finally tick this one as achieved.
I will however always continue to practice and to try to improve my French, as I would like to become much more fluent.
My thanks to all who have helped along the way. “Merci beaucoup.”