Since it takes me over an hour to get to the university, I was a little bit late for the class. The secretary ushered me in and introduced me to the prof as 'An OT from the US who wants to observe your class.' Once the prof recovered from my interrupting entrance, she began lecturing at the speed of light. Suddenly I thought maybe this had been a bad idea. Maybe I was way in over my.
As I sat nervously trying to decipher just one word I was familiar with, the prof distributed an activity analysis worksheet. She then took a wooden frame that had multiple pegs protruding from it and she began to string yarn from one peg across to the opposite side in a zig-zag formation. She turned and asked her class what they had observered, starting at the shoulder working down to the fingers.
As the students broke down each component of joint movement I began to understand more and more. Many of the terms are exactly the same, just with a French prononciation . . . comme: flexion (fleck-see-on) and supination (sue-pie-na-see-on).
Thankfully the girl I was sitting next to attended a French primary school and therefore has impecable handwritting . . . and she let me copy her notes. I was able to write about 85% of what the prof was saying, but there was that last 15% that stumped me.
After the analysis component, the prof switched to the functional anatomy portion: which muscles are responsible for each movement at each joint. This is where learning in context becomes my best friend. Sure it's been a while since I've had to recount anything about the chorichobrachialis, teres major, or flexor digitorum longus, but it's like riding a bike . . . or typing in your mother tongue. But hearing the French terms for each muscle in a logical context helped me understand which was which and what they do . . . and if I know what they do, I know where they are.
I was starting to enjoy myself. I was understanding, and taking notes, and answering her questions (in my head). I felt secure and confident. I was glad to be there.
Scribbling as fast as I could alongside of 25 future collegues, I heard something I didn't need to write down: C'est trop vite pour vous? (Is this too fast for you-plural). No one answered. I continuted to write, head down, trying to keep up, waiting for the prof to move on to the wrist.
It occured to me that not only was no one speaking, no one, but me was writing. My pen froze. I looked up. She was staring at me. All 25 of the students were staring at me. She had vous-ed me. That wasn't a plural vous to her whole class. That was a polite, stranger vous just for me.
I sheepishly mustered a very informal, Non, ça va, madame. Merci.