A Note on Language Immersion

Annika M. is currently a junior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Hanover High School in New Hampshire.

Learning a language is challenging. It's been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. It's emotionally tolling and physically exhausting. Some days I feel like the most accomplished person in the room and other days like the stupidest. Some days are discouraging, some days are absolutely amazing. Learning a language is a roller coaster of messy emotions: disappointment, excitement, constant confusion, and deep gratitude. Learning a language might be challenging, but it's also extremely rewarding. Over the past two months, I've had to realize that in order to feel successful, in order to enjoy the rewarding moments of language learning, I need to measure my improvement not by the big moments but by all the small moments. 

Some of the small moments:

  1. Over the Toussaint Break, we took a class trip to Nantes. On the second day of the trip, I went to a small boutique to pick out a card for my mom. When I was up at the counter buying the card, the lady at the counter saw the name on my credit card, Annika Milliman, and asked if I was German. Although I do have German ancestry, I am American through and through.  I said no, and we talked a little bit more before I left. When I got out of the store I realized that the lady’s first instinct was to call me German, not American. She had already heard me speak French before she saw my name which meant that she didn’t hear my American accent. Even though this moment was small, it made me happy to think that my accent wasn’t a dead give away as to where I am from.  

  2. The next day on the Nantes trip I went to small bistro café for lunch with one of my friends. At this restaurant, our waiter spoke to us only in French and he complimented how well we could speak...this made us both very happy! While we were ordering desert, two older ladies came and sat down next to us. We heard them speaking and realized that they were fellow Americans. The two ladies didn’t speak a lick of French and so we offered to help them order for which they, and the waiters who spoke no English, were very grateful. This experience made both me and my friend realize not only how we are improving but how valuable learning French is and how speaking multiple languages can really come in handy!

  3. Later that same day in Nantes, the same friend and I went into a little store to poke around and look for some postcards. When we entered the store, the lady behind the counter greeted us. After we exchanged pleasantries she asked where we were from. We responded by saying the U.S. After hearing where we were from, she asked if we spoke French, we said yes, and she commended us for our verbal skills and for being brave enough to learn a new language. After leaving the store I realized that now when someone asks if I speak French, I can say that I DO. Sure it may not be perfect, far from it actually, but I have gotten to a point where I understand the majority of what is being said. It’s fulfilling and purely exciting to be able to express what I think. Every day is challenging, rewarding, and oh so gratifying. And that’s what makes language learning fun, the fact that not everyday is perfect, but that everyday is just one small step towards achieving a bigger goal. 

  • Campus Reporters
  • SYA France
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