Sunday, October 12, 2008

Language Blues

I've been oscillating back and forth lately as to whether or not I want to maintain this blog. Partly because I'm lazy and partly because I'm less anonymous now than before causing me to think carefully before publishing certain posts. I've decided that for the time being I will keep the updates coming and I will try to be a little more disciplined regarding the frequency.

So what have I been up to? Well I celebrated my 1 year anniversary in Paris several weeks ago (please feel free to send presents my way). I also took a 1 week long intensive French course. Overall the course was great and I'm thankful to the company for paying for it. However, I'm doing myself a huge disservice by not speaking more. Even though I've listened to my fair share of Frenchies stumble to speak English on my behalf I'm just really not comfortable enough to do the same, yet. Honestly, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to do the same.

Before I came to France I had this fantasy that when I arrived in Paris, I would magically, through some sort of osmosis be able to speak perfect French. Now that that isn't the case I'm really struggling. When I first got here people were a lot more understanding of my lack of language skills but now that I've been here over a year their expectations have definitely changed and I'm almost embarrassed to tell people how long I've been in France these days.

Things will get better I'm sure. I have my second intensive week of one on one French classes in two weeks. I think I need to change my mindset and step out of my comfort zone more so than I have done in the past.


Oneika said...
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Oneika said...

Well, practice makes perfect!

But I can understand what you mean. Speaking and learning a foreign language is already a daunting task in and of itself- never mind the pressure that is added when people assume that you are supposed to have attained a certain level of proficiency!

I am Canadian (anglophone) and also a French teacher, so I know that when I speak to French people I am always particularily conscious of what I say and how I say it- I used to be mortified if I made a mistake. Because I've learned Canadian French since childhood I used to have a distinctly Quebecois accent that the Frenchies mercilessly teased me for... I remember consciously trying to lose my "Celine Dion" accent (which, after living in France for two years, I eventually did). Now I kinda wished that I had kept it because everyone thought that I was so charming because I spoke that way!

Anonymous said...

I think that you just have to take that leap and accept that you're going feel self conscious and you're going to make mistakes. The more that you hold yourself back from speaking, the longer it will take for you to progress.

I used to live in Japan and after 2 years, I didn't really know how to say much more than the basics. And just like you, it became embarrassing telling people how long I'd be there for.

In retrospect now that I don't live there anymore, I really wish that I'd been more willing to take risks, to make a fool of myself, to try and speak the language more than I had to.

Being an expat in a large city does that. Its residents are more accustomed to tourists, and to people that can't speak their language fluently. It just forces you to have to make that extra effort to learn. That was definitely the case for most of the expats that I met in Tokyo.

Rasmenia said...

So, I'm not the only one who had that fantasy. :)

I've been here for almost 3 years & while my French is still horrible, I do struggle a little less all the time.

Like you described, people were much more understanding about my monolingual handicap when I first arrived, but their understanding has dwindled a bit.

Everyone learns at their own pace & while I sometimes get frustrated with feeling pressured to be fluent in French, I just have to remind myself that they would likely be no better off if they were in a similar situation.

Bon courage. :)