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The Importance of Language

For thanksgiving my family came to town, and they were able to meet with my homestay family which was a really fun opportunity. However, my family doesn’t speak French, and my host mother doesn’t speak English. I had to play translator. I was extremely nervous to do this, because I had only been learning the language for three months. I had studied Spanish for 8 years and still was not that proficient so I assumed my French wasn’t even close to proficient. However, I surprised myself. I was able to communicate a lot of what my parents wanted to say and was able to understand a lot of what my host mom was saying. It was difficult to keep the two languages separate at times, I would talk to my family in French and my host mom in English sometimes, but for how inexperienced in French I feel like I did a good job. It just goes to show that being in an environment that forces you to speak the language makes it a lot easier to learn. At the beginning it was difficult to navigate, but I learned words as I needed them, and now I am confident in my French speaking skills. I even ordered chipotle today all in French, and was able to understand all that the workers were asking me.

What strikes me so much about my confidence in the French language, is how it has changed how I go about life in Paris. I have been here now for three months, and there have been so many times where the language barrier has stopped me from seeking help because I was afraid that they wouldn’t understand me. For example, I was at dinner one night and wanted ice cream for desert. There weren’t any flavors on the menu so I assumed you had to ask the waiter what they were. I was nervous to do this, so instead I ended up just ordering something else. There have been so many instances where that has happened, where I found a different solution so that I would avoid having to talk to people. It’s very isolating. But, since I have gained that confidence in my language skills, I have noticed a change in how I interact with people. I am more willing to ask people for help, more willing to interact with my Starbucks barista and ask her how her day was, and build more relationships. It makes life in Paris much less lonely when you’re able to make those small connections.

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