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Written By: inaconundrum on April 13, 2010 4 Comments

Oh, the possibilities of writing a blog entry on absolutely anything at all in any language I so desire. Ordinarily, I detest such open-ended assignments. I like concrete prompts, assignments with bulleted instructions. Yet, the solution to this assignment came to the forefront of my mind quicker than I imagined possible. To take French 4 or not to take French 4, that is the question.

After taking three years of Spanish in high school, I would have never imagined myself here at Cal barreling through French 3 as a freshman. I have no particular love for the French language, the country, or its people. Spanish was practical – a Californian needs to know Spanish right? But when my family unexpectedly picked up and moved to Lyon right before the start of my senior year of high school, I was dropped into my worst nightmare. That year of fumbling around the streets of France like a deaf-mute was, to mildly put it, horribly unpleasant. Spanish didn’t really help. No one wanted to listen to my fluent English. And don’t even get started about Mandarin. Thus began my foray into the French-speaking world.

My family still lives in France, and I visit them every summer and winter break. I decided to take French 2 as I began my adventure at Cal solely to fulfill the necessity of speaking and understanding French when ones family decides to take up residence in France. Languages come easily to me and having gone through a year of total immersion doesn’t hurt; French 2 was a walk in the park and French 3 is not much harder. However, as I sit in class and listen to my classmates discuss their love of the beautiful language, their desires to someday experience the romance of Paris firsthand, and their expectations for the class, I feel woefully out of place. Why am I even taking French? I need to. I have to. I won’t understand Les Simpsons if I don’t. But these rationales do little to assuage my anti-French mentality.

I’ll be the first to admit that I absolutely hated my year in France. When others speak glowingly of their experiences in France, I cringe on the inside as I recall my traumatic one. When peers exclaim excitedly about my “awesome” opportunity, I struggle to contain a “you have no idea what you’re talking about” glare. I’ve come to appreciate my experience and accept the fact that my family won’t be moving anytime soon, but I can’t overcome this mental hurdle. The practicality of taking French 4 and my spiteful inner voice are battling it out as my Telebears appointment fast approaches. Can French 4 do more than cement all those lovely grammar rules and new vocabulary words in my mind? Will it help me learn to love this language and this culture?

I honestly don’t know. Help, anybody?

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4 Responses to “Uncertainty”

  1. My 2 Cents on: 13 April 2010 at 11:20 pm

    It takes time to see if you enjoy something and this may be the case for your French. I know that the idea of French was extremely appealing to me before I began my studies. After I realized it was an academic class early in high school, it became more of a chore. It took a good year or two for me to appreciate the complexity and fluidity of the language. I know this isn’t the case for everyone learning a language. There are still times when I get very frustrated with my limited vocabulary or difficult verb conjugations. It could be that you are still in this middle phase, between deciding if it’s all worth it or not. If so, I think that one last push – taking French 4 – will determine if it is the language for you. Sometimes you have to use some force to make sure you aren’t missing out on new knowledge or experience. With that extra push, whether in school or anything, could give you that energetic feeling of confidence in your struggles. So, I hope that you choose to make that final lunge into the French language. And if you still don’t feel a thing for it, then at least you gave it all you could and leave with that feeling of accomplishment.

  2. Sandra on: 14 April 2010 at 6:56 am

    Hello there,

    I can’t help you, but I would like to share an experience with you. I studied a “licenciatura” the Colombian equivalent of a bachelor in foreign languages teaching in French and English. I reached a decent level both in English and French and I had the chance to travel to France after my last semester, before graduation, when I had finished all my subjects.

    I spent 8 months as a language assistant in a French high school. I improved my French a lot. It became as natural and fluent as my English. But, I didn’t fit in the culture. I found the teachers and people in general so distant and complicated about simple things such as saying hello and good bye (it was north-western france).It was too civilized to my taste. However, I kept a very good memory of my time in France and I would have liked to stay longer because it was a very positive experience in general. Anyway, I came back to Colombia and I continued working with English instead of switching to French.

    After two years, I got a scholarship to study a master in France and Spain. I came back to France this time as a student in university. I spent 8 months in France and I didn’t like it as much as the first time. I think I simply do not fit there. I like French and I met many nice people but the society as a whole seems a bit too rigid, everyday “insensible”, and complicated to me. I prefer Spain, where I am now, and though I have never been in the US for longer than a weekend, I think I’d like to spend some months there to get a grasp of the culture.

    My five cents? I understand how you feel.That is all I can tell you. Many of my classmates who traveled with me the first time stayed in France because it was soo cool. I didn’t find it as cool.

    Working in my master dissertation here, I asked a Spanish teacher of French about her experience in France and she told me she liked the language, but not the people. Can it be possible?

  3. daveski on: 15 April 2010 at 7:16 am

    Wow, great post. I just happened upon this, too, about someone at Baylor U. who had given up on other languages until she found Russian: http://www.baylor.edu/lariat/news.php?action=story&story=72663
    I wonder, with regard to French particularly, if there’s a bias that makes people think you have to love it in order to be really motivated to study it? Does that mean French isn’t practical? 🙂

  4. Emma Hanley on: 15 April 2010 at 3:28 pm

    I am torn about how to respond. On one hand I completely agree. I spent last summer in Paris realizing that humor doesn’t translate. The only time I would laugh with a co-worker was when then found my stupidity or lack of French cute and “so American.” My mom lived in Paris when she was 18 and speaks glowingly about the experience. At first I wondered if my experience was different because I have had the opportunity to live abroad and immerse myself in a foreign language before, but then I realized there was something more to it. No one enjoys feeling like a child being made fun of, no matter how innocently. That’s what its like to be thrown into a culturally distinct world with a brick wall of a language barrier.

    On the other hand, there is something very interesting about learning French, Spanish, German, Russian, Mandarin or any other language because it is the study of a culture. That’s the part I think people enjoy. I find it hard to believe anyone relishes grammar and sentence construction so I am lead to believe it is the love of the exotic that entices them. Basically I think it is not the language which is so exciting (although it sounds different and thus cool at first) but the stories, culture, distinct mindset and values which draw us in.

    Not sure if that helped, but hopefully I’ll see you in French 4.

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