Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Struggles of learning another language

When people ask me why I became an au pair in France, I have many answers - I love the city and Parisian culture, I wanted to do something adventurous, but most importantly, I wanted to finally become fluent in French.  I say finally because I have been learning French since I was about eight, and I'm still not fluent. Trust me, I know how pathetic that is.  What makes it worse is being surrounded by people who speak like six different languages and picking up a new one is like buying a new pair shoes.  This post is not for those people because if you are one of them, you make me feel really shitty about myself.

Pretending to know what someone is talking about

This happens to me more than I would like to admit - I'm in a friendly conversation with a French native speaker, and honestly, I have no idea what the hell they're talking about.  They could be talking goat ice hockey for all I know, and what do I do?  I just smile and nod.  Anytime the other person seems to be asking me a question? I just respond with "oui."  Word of advice - don't do this! I look like a complete idiot about 75% of the time, and I'm not fooling anyone.  Then once the person discovers that you've just been nodding along, not understanding anything they're saying about goat hockey, they will treat you like the complete idiot that you are for the rest of the conversation.

When people ask you if you're fluent

When people ask me this, especially if they've known me since I was a kid and know that I've been studying French forever, I completely panic.  How do I answer this?? Should I be honest and say "nope I still suck at it," or should I lie my ass off and say "uhh yeah pretty much"?  I can't be completely truthful because then they'll know that I'm pathetic, but then there's always the chance that the friend they're with is actually fluent in French and will want to have a conversation.  That's my worst nightmare, so I usually respond with "no, no not at all" which somehow comes off as being modest.

Thinking you've finally got this

You're feeling really good about yourself because you can finally understand everything your teacher says or the journalist on the news.  You think "hey, this isn't so hard, I'm finally getting the hang of this," but then you go to a bar or a party.  You hear people your own age talking to their friends, and you suddenly realize that you know NOTHING. 

When people ask if you want to teach that language

If they could only hear the roaring laughter in my head when someone asks if I will teach French.  Even with a degree in French, yes I said degree, from a real school, I am in no way qualified to teach French.  Those poor kids would sound so stupid.

When people ask you to translate on the spot

"Oh hey, I read this sentence in a book that's French, listen to it once, and translate it for me NOW."  Again, this is my worst nightmare.  I usually have a hard time understanding real French people, but when someone who's not a native speaker tries to say something to me, it's absolute jibberish.   

The moment(s) when you lose all hope

There have been so many times when I want to give up because I'm tired of being publicly humiliated or struggling just to say a seemingly simple sentence.  It's easy to get discouraged because learning another language is really hard.  Let's be honest, those people who know six languages are freaks.  Anyway, don't give up because learning another language is rewarding and not to mention, really useful.  If you're feeling discouraged, take a little break.  Call your best friend from home or watch an English TV show.  Then pick yourself up and try again.

These have been a few of my struggles while learning French.  There are more because let's face it, the list is endless, but if you are in a similar situation, please feel free to share what has been difficult for you!