July 18th, 2014

Ah, the sweet nectar of failure

The fact of the matter is that no one likes to fail.

But studying in a foreign country where I barely speak the language means I fail at everyday things. And deep down, that hurts.

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Early morning on Rue Bon Pasteur, Aix-en-Provence

As a writer, I take pride in my language. I know it inside and out, reveling in my ability to mold it into whatever shape I choose. Yet I forget I’m still learning it. I often have to correct myself when using “I” or “me;” “well” and “good” are just as tricky. Don’t get me started on “who” and “whom.” But for every issue I have with English, French presents tenfold. I stutter, lose focus, forget vocabulary – all the usual trappings of a novice.

So when I read this article on Huffington Post, my awkward, hulking French problem came into focus: I know how to speak English so well that making a mistake in French is painful. And that’s ok.

Before I came to Aix, I thought that three weeks would be plenty of time to really immerse myself in the language. With one week left, I see I still have many years of French ahead of me. Rather than dreading them, however, I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’ve always oriented my life around goals, and the cause of learning a second language seems like a worthy one.

Speaking two languages gives you the ability to see the world through two different lens. It opens doors to a world full of new music, films and novels – people too. I can see the progress I’ve made since I came to Aix. In fact, learning and speaking in English seems too easy now. But more importantly, I’ve shaken off that fear of failure. So what if I use the wrong verb tense? It’s better to try (and possibly fail!) to make that connection than to keep the words inside my head.

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