The title of this post is one of those handy words that is spelt exactly the same in English as it is in French. In French it’s a feminine noun, and this female is feeling a lot of it right now. What’s the cause? What else, but language? It is now less than two weeks before I leave Switzerland for almost a month, during which time I will be speaking French even less than I am right now. Even less. That’s a grim thought.
It’s a disgrace really, how little my French has come along in the last three months. Sure, I’ve made progress; I’d have problems if I hadn’t made any at all. But if, in my remaining time here, some drastic changes do not happen and I continue to “progress” at the same rate, by the end of my degree I’ll still be floundering in the shallows of intermediate-level French.
It’s my own fault, probably. I still spend the majority of my days speaking English. How did this happen? It’s very easy to get sucked into the international student world, where English is the default language. I wouldn’t have this problem if I was in a flat share with Swiss people. Living in halls has its pluses and minuses, and I am fortunate to have befriended a number of native French speakers, but that was sheer luck. All it takes is one person who doesn’t speak French for everyone in the room to revert to English. As expressed in a previous post, it can be highly frustrating being a native English speaker. Hell, if I wasn’t, I’d at least be getting in some useful English practice too, right?
What can I do? I am actually imploring you, dear reader, to give me some advice. The situation is feeling rather dire, and I’m far too proud to return to England in the summer still sounding like a spastic en français. People I know who have already been on exchange all pretty much concur on one solution: cut ties with English-speaking friends. Surround yourself only with French speakers. Guaranteed success. I don’t doubt it, but it’s a bit heartless, no?
I keep telling myself that it would be so much harder without English, that I wouldn’t have the same kind of friendships…but is that really true? There’s not doubt forming relationships is easier in English, but I have likewise made some very good friends with whom I speak only French (well, ok, with the occasional English word tossed in). Sure, I’m not quite as eloquent when we are talking about “deep” matters, but I’m not so far off as to not make my (I like to think) more complex thoughts understood. In fact, it’s a good exercise in being more concise, without flinging around unnecessary vocabulary and turns of phrases.
In addition I feel so silly and ungrateful stalking the streets of Switzerland speaking in English. What happened to immersion? It’s like I can’t be bothered with or am uninterested in this lovely country, which is the exact opposite of the truth. If there are two words combined which I revile the most in the English language, they are “wasted opportunity”. Don’t let this year be one. What do you guys think?