Six Months Later...

Authored by:
Suzanna S.

Time moves along so quickly…

It’s been a full six months since I arrived here in France. I feel like it’s been only one. I suppose that’s because I thought I would progress a little faster than I did, but then again, being submersed into a new language and culture is like starting over from scratch.

At the beginning, I was a little like a baby; pointing and asking “what’s that” or primarily using hand gestures to communicate. Most of all (and this is the most important part), I listened. On the bus, in the halls, at the dinner table. It was like deciphering a code. The most gratifying accomplishment is to figure out a word without using a dictionary, and only from context. The only drawback is that afterwards, I’m not always sure how it’s spelled.

A lot of words in French sound exactly the same but are spelled much different and mean wildly different things. For instance, “il chante” (he sings) sounds identical to “ils chantent” (they sing). Or “pris” (took) and “prix” (price). So I’m always in a grand state of confusion amidst a sea of same sounding words meaning different things. “Torture a tortue” (torture a turtle), my friend Alice says to me all the time, because for the life of me I can never discern the r sound and they seem exactly alike. Language is always complicated. I’m not saying that English is any easier, what with too, to, and two. For those going on exchange; it’s perfectly fine to not understand, to ask “peut-tu repeter s’il te plaît?” (can you repeat please?). Being confused only means that you put energy into actually listening to what someone said rather than just blocking out the other language.

I will admit that sometimes French turns into white noise. Especially in math class. It’s much easier to recede into the process of my own thoughts, because my brain speaks in English. However, if I did that all the time (math class is an exception), it would be useless to be in a different country at all. Focus is key. Even more so when you’re wondering whether or not you’ll ever be fluent; listening will do the most good compared to anything else.

Listen to the people around you; I think you’ll be surprised at what you might find.

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