One of my biggest struggles concerning my year abroad so far has been language.
Officially, the reason our university makes us go on a year abroad is to master the language(s) that we have been studying for the past two years. However, for me personally, language is only an aspect of what i’m wanting to get out of this year- i wanna test myself, it’s about moving to a new country by myself and not only surviving but having a great time. I really want, by the end of the year, to have improved my confidence in new situations tenfold.
However, I know that this is an amazing opportunity, not only to grow as a person (soz for the cliché lol) but to dramatically improve my languages.
Before I started my year abroad I naively believed that just being in Paris would improve my French so much, I didn’t factor in the daily effort it would take to make sure I’m speaking French as much as possible with as many people as possible. True, my listening has improved a lot, because although it is a tonne of effort to be actively listening to every conversation all the time, I seem to find actually speaking the language a lot more stressful.
I have weird issues with it. If someone French asks me a question in English, I almost feel rude if I was to reply in French, after they’ve made the effort to talk to me in English! I know that doesn’t really make sense, but in the moment I lose all motivation and reply in English..
I feel like I have to psyche myself up to start a conversation with someone in French, and I usually stress myself out about it so much that I end up reverting to English anyway.
However, it’s not all bad. I’ve made a massive effort to only allow myself to read books in French, and this has been very effective for my reading skills. I take the metro on my commute for a total of about 40 minutes a day so I get lots of reading time and have just finished my fourth book. I also make a massive effort to listen and try and understand everything my colleagues are saying to each other at work. This week especially I’ve noticed that I’m understanding about 80% of what is said in a group conversation (when concentrating intensely of course) and this makes me feel so proud!!
My main focus now is on speaking French more. Even though I get so anxious about it and embarrassed when I fail, I know that this is good for my confidence in the long run. I’m trying to focus on the little victories everyday when I manage to force myself to speak the language, rather than the bigger picture which feels very overwhelming at the moment..
I now go to a french conversation thing every Sunday, and I have bought a notebook in which I write down and learn any new vocab I come across, which has helped a lot! However, if anyone has any tips on conquering language nerves please let me know!