Learning to love French

What’s on your bucket list?

Many people want to skydive, bungee jump or visit Antarctica. On my bucket list I wrote, “Become fluent in a second language.” I wrote this assuming it would come naturally to me. All I needed to do was immerse myself in a culture I love, and voilà! I’d be speaking another language.

Little did I know how wrong I was when I left study abroad in France.

When I first started learning French in Collonges-sous-Salève it was fun. But after about a month, I was drained. The longer I am here, the more my previous idea of France and of the language changes. I romanticized this country enough to think everyone would be either kind bakers or stylish cat women. The hills would sing, and I would drink European coffee every morning.

I learned quickly that things aren’t this way in France. Just like in any other country, there are rude people. I can no longer go hiking because the weather is too cold, and I don’t even have time to walk into town for some European coffee.

In class I realized French is, you guessed it, incredibly difficult. Almost half the letters in a French word are silent, there are loads of exceptions and then there is the matter of slang.

I became so fed up I almost thought about transferring to another language school.

“Why did I choose the hardest language? Did I make a mistake coming here? I’m never going to learn French!” As these thoughts ran through my head, I discovered this is a normal feeling. Everyone who studies a foreign language experiences the same frustration I was going through.

But what could I do as I realized the language and culture aren’t as great as I thought they’d be? I decided to find a way to fall in love with France and French again.

I asked myself questions like, “Why did I choose French in the first place? What benefits will learning French give me? What originally drew me to the culture?”

I watched more French movies, listened to French music and spoke French with others. Something important I didn’t have for a long time was someone who I felt totally safe speaking French with. Speaking a language you barely know is a humbling experience to say the least, and if you’re shy like me, even speaking English to someone can be nerve-wracking. This made French that much more difficult to speak.

Taking time to get off campus proved to be important for my education—and my sanity. This is how I am actually learning French. I attend class of course, but I also incorporate things I like to do with the language I’m learning and I meet locals along the way.

In my experience so far, I’ve discovered learning a new language has a process.

At first, I loved the language. Then, I couldn’t stand it. But now, after some hard work and an attitude adjustment, I finally find myself able to have a conversation in French, and I love it! Everything I’ve gone through is worth it.

Not for a second do I regret being in France. I am thrilled to experience where this year leads.

If interested in the Adventist Colleges Abroad program, visit www.aca-noborders.org

Hailey Kruger is a junior studying communication. She is currently studying abroad in France.