Driving (me crazy)

Getting my French driver’s license has really turned out to be an ordeal. I found that I had enormous holes in my French vocabulary and that there were many words or terms in French that I didn’t know. An example of this was the verb, franchir. It confused me at first because I thought it was a form of franc, which means to be frank and open. It turned out to mean to cross, as in going over a line.
The class takes place in a really small building in a room that holds about 25 chairs. It can get really hot. Thank God there is a portable a/c unit there (that is if the instructor doesn’t move it to the front room where she is). The class works with DVD’s. There are 20 of them, I believe, with six different sections of 40 questions each, and we sit and watch photos and questions are given about the photos, such as a street with a sign to the right of the road and we are either given a choice of four answers or choices, or two choices -yes or no-about that sign and street. If a question has 3 possible correct answers and you miss one, you miss the whole question. There are two types of tests, one with 40 questions, and one with 20 which gives questions on a specific subject, such as signs or signilisation. You have to consistently miss fewer than four on the 40 question tests before they feel you are ready for the real thing. You can’t miss more than four on the real thing either or you won’t pass. Oh, and did I mention that the questions are timed? There are 30 seconds to get your answers down. So, I have to translate the French, figure out what some new to me word means and also then answer the question. I have to take my test in Avignon where they are set up for foreigners who don’t speak French well and they will probably require me to pay for an interpreter although after sitting through this class for so long-over two months-and learning everything, I’m not sure if I even need one. New since I wrote this-I’m going to take the test in Pertuis in French because I don’t want to wait until September or even possibly December to have a translator. I can’t remember all of the information that long and I sure don’t want to keep taking the classes until then. They only have tests with translators when there are a certain number of people wanting to take them.
As you might guess, the driver’s ed classes are filled with mostly younger people, although I’m not always the only older person there. I now recogonize many of the young people either riding bikes or motor scooters or hitching a ride here and there. Some older adults have gotten too many tickets and are required to take the course again although I’m not sure for how long. The classes are given every day but Sunday with Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday having classes at 10 and 11 AM, and Monday, Wednesday and Friday having classes at 4, 5 and 6 PM. The first couple of weeks I only went every other day but was doing so poorly on the tests that I decided to go every single day until I mastered the material. Usually on Tuesday and Thursday morning there are fewer people and, in particular, an older lady about my age. She is very funny and has “un blockage” as she says and isn’t doing very well. It brightens my day a little to know that many of the French people in the class are doing worse than I am and they understand French. The problem is that many of the questions are tricky and you have to figure out what the heck they want. An example: the rule is that if there are no signs or lights at an intersection, the car on the right has the right of way. So everytime a photo comes up of a car to the right you look for a stop sign or yield sign for that car or a white line or dash line indicating that the car is required to stop and that you have the right of way. So they put up a photo of a car waiting on a side street. There are no signs for them, no lines painted on the road in front of them. Everyone usually guesses that the car has the right of way. But, wait! It is a small side street, a sort of alley, so it turns out that they don’t have the right of way. You have to notice all of this, analyze the situation and get the right answer.
One Tuesday morning, the funny lady, three young people and I were there for the class. The door was closed as the DVD started and they all started talking amongst themselves talking about the questions. A photo came up and the older woman said to the young guy next to her, “What’s the answer?” and he confidentally told her. He sounded so sure of himself that I changed my answer. It turned out to be wrong. The teacher finally yelled through the closed door that everyone needed to stop talking. When we finished and had to take our papers in to be graded by the teacher, the older woman said, “What was the answer to number 10?” A young girl said, “A and D”. I looked at my test and had only put down A, so I quickly circled D which turned out to be wrong too. For the second class I ignored them and only missed four instead of the seven I missed with their “help”.
The French have this noise they make, a sort of popping, spitting without the spit sound, maybe pppbbb? They use it in place of the American shrug or to say, “I don’t know”. Maurice uses it all of the time. “Do you know where the hammer is?” “Pppbbb”. And so on. It makes me smile in class when a situtation is shown on the DVD in class and we have to pick one of four possible answers and I hear someone behind me make that sound. It means they don’t have a clue as to what the answer is. I, naturally, know just how they feel.
The main teacher is a nice lady, the one who told me that the course would be very hard-boy, was she ever right. Sometimes, after we have done a test of twenty questions instead of watching the correct answers and explanations on the video, she will come in and go through each question and give an explanation. I don’t understand all of what she says, but she is very good at teaching and getting her point across. If the young people in the class get rowdy, she tells them to shut up. She doesn’t take anything from them. They obey too. One day I parked in a lot that is usually open but when I came out the gate had been closed. The only way out had been blocked but a huge stack of large wooden slats used to move heavy items, like a huge pile of bricks or the like. She came out and helped me move about twenty of them so I could get out-hot and sweaty work. Those things were really heavy. I didn’t have a choice though. I never parked there again, of course.
So my written test-in French-will be on August 12th. It takes about three months to get prepared enough to take the test. I’m so hoping I will pass and can stop going to the driver’s ed classes. I’m really getting bored by them and the constant driving back and forth. Believe me, if I pass the world will know. You may see it on Times Square.

13 thoughts to “Driving (me crazy)”

  1. I totally know what you mean about that noise the French make when they don’t know something. The scary part is, I have now caught myself making that same noise on occasion. Now if I can only do as well someday on my French driving test as you seem to be doing! I’ve got my fingers crossed.

    FYI we’ll be in St. Raphael from the 1st to the 21st or 22nd. If there’s an opportunity for us to maybe come down your way and hook up for the day, let’s see if we can do it, if you’re not otherwise booked up with house guests of course.

  2. I’ll be thinking positive thoughts for you on the 12th!
    As you know, I just got pulled over for a “paper” check…and glad that I had that little pink French license.

  3. Dear Linda, I hope you pass with flying colors!!! And if you don’t, here’s what I would do: take a trip to one of the US states that has the reciprocal agreement with France and apply for a liscence there! I’m serious. Like Florida. It can’t be that hard to get a liscence there! 🙂 But, with all your hard work, I’ll be praying for you on August 12th! Cy

  4. Oh, that sounds like the test here in Sweden!

    I did everything for my license in the UK -passed the written test with a perfect score- but did not get a time for my driving exam before I actually had to leave the country. Since I’d learnt how to operate a vehicle, though, as soon as I got to Sweden I studied for the written test until I knew the book by heart, went in… and failed, and gave up all together. I have since learned that apparently the only way to learn is to go to a driving school and sit through endless example questions until you just sort of “get” their way of thinking. Being able to recite all the rules backwards and forwards did me no good at all.

    Now I won’t have time to get my license before I too move to France, so I am crossing my fingers hard for you! Just the fact that you’re getting through this gives me a glimmer of hope. 😉

  5. Wow! I can’t believe how hard it is to get a license. What a great business for the people who hold those classes everyday, but what a difficult time for people like you who are getting their license. You’ll do it! You’re probably overprepared.

  6. I have a really dumb question. What about an international drivers’ license? Can’t you get one of those and just use it? Like forever?

    I know it is easy to get a license in Florida, but don’t you have to have residency there?

  7. While I’m sorry you’re having a bit of a hard time with this, I’m also glad to see that some countries take the business of driving very seriously. I assume the road skills part of your test will be just as stringent? Over here they just give anybody a license. They gave me one and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. They’ve made the process a bit tougher since then, but it’s still incredibly easy to legally get behind the wheel of a car — and we have the accident statistics to prove it. Good luck! At least you’ll be well-prepared.

  8. Sending up prayers for you, for the 12th. Oh my, it really does sound difficult AND frustrating. My heart goes out to you. But at the same time, I’m confident you will do well. Hang in there.

  9. Good for you to perservere through what seems to be an incredibly long, drawn-out, frustrating process. You would think that with a driving license being this difficult to get, that the French would be the best drivers on the planet!

  10. Our Little French Girl just got her license and is over joyed. She will be here next week and I told her she could drive my car. We will be driving from Avignon to Brittany together in early September.
    Hope we can meet up with you too.

  11. Bon Chance ( or is it bonne???) We were so lucky when we needed to get an Arizona dr.lic. when we moved there from Canada – we were told there was no test – just give them your present license. Haha – wrong, but it was just a written test. We thought we might as well try it right away, as it was multiple choice. But the wording was VERY tricky – luckily, I was used to interpreting contract language, and I got enough right to pass. But my husband – who is English – misunderstood some of the questions and would have failed, except the examiner reworded a couple of questions in talking to him, and he got them right. We were so relieved!!!~

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