French class is over. Goodbye Charlie. So long. That’s all she wrote. After 3 intensive semesters of studying the complexities of the French language, I said my final “adieu” to the university this past Friday. My last exam was with the same teacher I started my studies with, so it was a fitting end.
Now all that’s left is to wait for my grades, and more importantly, my new visa to come through.
After being out of school for so long, it was bizarre to go back to class, surrounded by people who were mostly my baby sister’s age. Talking with my classmates brought me back to memories from Japan, where I studied abroad 8 years ago. The hope, the uncertainty, the naive perfectionism, the desire to find their path and figure things out, the desire to grow up; I saw a lot of my younger self in my classmates. While it brought back memories of a much more sheltered, carefree (or careless?), naive Lari, my experience also smacked me with a bit of perspective to take away.
It was weird to turn in homework, get corrected and lectured during the day in class, then switch roles and teach and correct my own students at night at work.
It was invigorating to be motivated not by grades, but by pure will and ambition to become self-sufficient, to be able to advocate for myself in a foreign language and country.
It was uplifting to observe my progress in French, and reconnect with my love of studying foreign languages.
It was instrumental in showing me my limits, and I learned the real meaning of being kind and understanding with oneself.
It showed me a glimpse of my potential.
It helped me rediscover my cojones.
It inspired an intellectual curiosity that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
It also opened my eyes to the fact that there’s no way for me to learn all that I would like to learn in this lifetime.
Now, on to the next. Training wheels are off, let’s see what I get myself up to.
Hello, again. It’s been a long time.
No, my interest in maintaining this blog hasn’t diminished. Despite my silence, my compulsion to write has continued to scratch at the back of my mind; the scratching gets louder with each day that passes. Writing for writing’s sake hasn’t compelled me into action. I’m trying to find my voice, to figure out what I want to say, and write for a reason. But the bigger reason is that I’m in the midst of a “phase.” What do I mean by “phase”? I mean a period of self-questioning, intense self-introspection, taking care of practical business, and generally working my booty off.
The creative instinct gets dulled when “the real world” is right there to pull you back into the matrix. Creativity gets dulled when there are more pressing worries at hand, like health concerns, immigration status, searching for work, desire to change careers and a general lack of direction. Not to mention navigating the labyrinth of French bureaucracy that mystifies even French people. Combine that with feeling vulnerable on a constant basis and general overwhelming anxiety, and it’s a perfect breeding ground for self-doubt. That ugly self-doubt, it’s a killer instinct.
That said, I feel ready to get back to the keyboard.
I’m ready to slap my self-doubt in the face with a white glove, all proper-like, and say: “You, Sir, are not welcome at this party.”
Even though I’ve still got a lot to learn about (fill in the blank–too many things to list!), I’m turning the corner in my adjustment phase. I’m learning to greet condescension with a smile. I’m learning not to feel ashamed of my level of French (which, after a year and a half of study, is well on its way to fluency–this is easy to forget when in a room full of native French speakers). I’m learning more than ever about what kind of person I am; trial by fire is a sure way to find out what you’re made of. And in those moments where I feel like crying, I’m learning to flip the table over on that emotion, and laugh and dance out the door, even if it still stings.
And one thing I have been convinced of in these last few months is that, if I feel like this, there’s no way I’m alone. And for now, I think that’s a good enough reason to continue writing.
The challenge is on. My plan is to relocate to France within the next few months, and I aim to develop my French to a decent conversational level before I go. Having taken a basic French class, I’m armed with a basic framework, a textbook and the infinite resources of the Internet. Nothing can stop me now.
More than anything, learning French is a personal goal. The test of my ability will be how well I can think on my feet once I’m there. There is no pressure here to get a good grade, but to be able to communicate meaningfully with French people once I’m there.
The first thing I refuse to let enter my mind is the idea that “French is HARD!” Having come from a background of studying Latin, Japanese and Korean, that’s just a lame excuse that won’t float. (Not that I claim to be excellent in any of those languages, by any means. In fact, I think I’ve learned a lot about how NOT to study languages, based on these past experiences.) That mindset, in regards to any endeavor, dooms you to fail before you’ve given an earnest effort.
My general mindset is:
1) French is an interesting code that I’m cracking bit by bit.
2) 100% accuracy does NOT equal fluency! So relax and make mistakes.
3) Willingness to speak and learn from mistakes ultimately produces a confident and communicative language user.
4) Approaching it from outside the box (by avoiding the traditional textbook approach) is more fun, more meaningful, more useful, and more engaging. For me, the fewer textbooks, the better. (A bit ironic, coming from a language teacher…)
5) I have many opportunities to engage with the language outside the textbook; it’s my springboard. The pool is AUTHENTIC communication.
6) A whole new culture is opening up to me. I’m intimately familiar with the connection between language and cultural identity, and approaching it with as much respect as I can give as an outsider. I’m excited to approach this new language as a tool to dive into French culture.