Erica Nguyen, a cohort 5 student attending Georgetown, is studying abroad this summer in France. She describes her experience as she studies abroad this summer:
I have been in Tours, France for three weeks. I am officially half way done with the program. I cannot definitively say that my French has improved immensely. But what I can say though is that I am able to conduct a basic conversation with a Francophone. I am living with a host family and, in my house, there has always been two other foreigners living with me along with my host mom, who is retired and divorced. Dinner time has always been not very challenging for me in terms of needing to generate conversations because the other people, who can speak better French, will always have something to share, which leaves me less awkward with my minimal French.
However, today’s dinner was a different story. One of my housemates left and the other went out for dinner with a friend; therefore, tonight’s dinner consisted of my host mom and I. As terrifying as one-on-one dinner with her seemed due to my incompetent French; it wasn’t, surprisingly. I was able to formulate substantial and comprehensible sentences that allowed us to have a pretty decent conversation over dinner. I mean, of course my grammar could use some more work, but overall, we both had something going and dinner was very enjoyable.
French is very difficult to learn, but having to develop the courage to keep trying time after time after time of constant failures in adequately conveying thoughts across in French is even more difficult. In the beginning when I would try to communicate with my host mom, 8 out of 10 times she would reply to me with, “I don’t understand.” It was undeniably discouraging. However, tonight’s dinner was different. Throughout the entire dinner, although there were looks of confusion, I was able to keep trying to convey my thoughts in all the other possible ways and it helped! She did not have to resort to saying, “I don’t understand.” Instead, she patiently waited for me to explain to her what I wanted to say. It was honestly quite a success for me.
After tonight, I will not wait to speak up. I will try to initiate conversations and continue to mess up, because if I don’t, how else will I learn? It’s honestly not that hard to stumble in speaking French and then move on from these petty discouragements anyway, because there is a finish line that I must get to, and I will get there one day.
Enjoy the rest of your time in France, Erica! We look forward to hearing more about it soon.