Douleur dans le pouce

Sticking out like a sore thumb. I don’t think I knew the true meaning of that expression until I came to Bordeaux. Not being able to speak French at a university in France is a challenge. Of course, the program I was enrolled in is supposed to be taught in English, yet that didn’t stop the professors from doing everything within their power to avoid teaching so. We were all warned about this, both by former students in our program and the program coordinators themselves.
For me, and my other ‘anglophone’ classmates (a term coined by our lecturers, I don’t even come from an anglophone country!) it was very awkward when the professors would announce to the class (this happened many times): “who here doesn’t speak French? Are you sure? Not even a little? I can speak slowly.” One or two lecturers even defiantly protested the fact that they were supposed to speak English for the sake of four or five students out of forty or so. Despite this, they all eventually switched to English – and most of them were completely understandable. Having an accent, however thick, doesn’t necessarily mean one can’t speak a language properly.
Of course, I’m not really blaming the professors or anyone else – the French are very proud of their language (justifiably so) yet they seem to be reluctant to speak English because of self doubt more than anything else. Perhaps French was once the language of science, as was German, Latin and even Arabic – but nowadays, it’s English. I think that the more willing people are to accept that the further they can progress.

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