Thursday, March 8, 2018

8/31: The Language of Frustration

I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions. After all, you can choose to reinvent yourself any day of the year, right?

However, without even realizing it, I did end up making a resolution for 2018. It was somewhere around day 25 that I realized that a momentary whim had turned into a full-blown obsession. I was thinking about the next time I'd practice. Wondering what other resources I could use. Asking everyone I knew for advice.

Yep. I had a resolution all right. 2018 was going to be the year that I would FINALLY learn to parle en francais. Er...learn how to speak in French.

French and I have a tumultuous relationship. We were on again and off again throughout high school and college. I watched Amelie (with subtitles). I ate macarons like nobody's business. But I still couldn't speak it.

Everything changed when I received a grant to go to France for a summer learning opportunity. I was surrounded by bilingual people, and all I could say in French was, "Where is the bathroom?" (Ou est la salle de bains, s'il vous plait, in case you were wondering). I returned with a seed planted in my mind that stayed dormant for the next six months. However, come January, it suddenly germinated into a creeping ivy that was slowly consuming my brain.

I Duolingo'ed. I read French websites. I even discovered that you can watch some children's cartoons in French on Netflix (My Little Pony sounds so much nicer en francais). I downloaded podcasts. I joined websites that paired you up with French pen pals and began exchanging emails with some native speakers. I discovered that there were adult language learning classes in my hometown.
Basically me.

56 days later, I still can't speak French. I get frustrated when I listen and still have no idea what the other person is saying (why hasn't someone invented the capability to project subtitles above our heads? Or where's the Universal Translator from Star Trek?). I get stuck and wonder if I should just give up when I confuse cheveux for chevaux for the zillionth time (hair and horses are two very different things when you're talking about cutting something).

I'm learning a new language, but I'm also learning patience, perseverance and consistency. So while it might be frustrating de temps en temps, I'm not giving up. Or, as the French say, bonne courage (keep going!).

So, next time I head to France, you'd better believe I'll still be able to ask where the bathroom is...but with a little more practice, maybe I'll have the confidence to strike up a conversation with someone else that doesn't involve bodily functions.


9 comments:

  1. C'est tres bien, Katie! Moi, je parle en peu de francais moi-meme, mais c'est une langue difficile! Your writing always conveys such creative thematic take-aways, with just the right amount of humor and detail (loved the My Little Pony example- that cartoon is so horrible). Thanks for sharing this! Btw, I fixed your comment on the Classroom SOLSC page :)

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    1. Thank you! Guess I need some more caffeine :)

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  2. French is a beautiful language, but I will leave the learning of that language to you! Eating, though, eating I can do. I could really go for a crepe right now.

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    1. I only removed my comment for the typo. Here's what how it should have read:
      Who knew you could view My Little Pony en francais? You inspire me with your dogged determination to learn French. I know it's not easy, yet you persist. Keep learning! P.S. maybe we should bring macarons for our slicing breakfast meetings!!

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    2. "what how"...still had that typo...I give up for tonight!

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  4. This is great! Love the meme for emphasizing your feelings. Love the way you take us through your attempts, and how you are growing in other ways along the way. I had a decent grasp on French until I moved to Guatemala and now Spanish seems to have evicted the former inhabitant of the 'other language' neighbourhood of the brain... but I definitely feel your pain about listening and hope you'll keep at it! Great overall theme to a piece not as simple as it began.

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  5. Vous pouvez le faire Mme K! Je crois en toi!

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