Throughout my school career I have learned several different foreign languages, I learned English as my first foreign language and then I started learning French, which was a part of my weekly schedule for six years, starting from Grade 6. While I have to acknowledge that I am nowhere near fluent in French, I have learned an immense amount of vocabulary over these years, and learned to speak and express myself in this grammatically challenging language.
Studying French in an international school enabled me to speak French with native speakers outside the classroom as well as in the classroom, as my teacher was a native French speaker. One of the things which stood out to me the most, was how quickly French people speak and how interconnected and intertwined the words and sentences become. Additionally, the French language is really melodic, which seemed to intertwine the words and sentences even more. For instance, when writing ‘we are’ in French you write “nous sommes”, however when saying this in a sentence, it is treated as one word and becomes something like “nousommes”. When speaking with native French speakers, either outside of the classroom or with my French teacher, this became quite challenging as learning the language slowly is very different from understanding and speaking it yourself in such a fast pace. I think that language and the linguistics of language reveal a lot about the people who speak the language, not only what they say but also how they say it. Perhaps my observations reflect some aspects of their culture and way of living, as the French people I have encountered displayed very lively and active personalities, being engaged with their surroundings and enjoying the company of each other. I learned to appreciate this, to me how they make use of their language, the friendliness and humour I have encountered when being in France or around French people, fits the melodic and fast pace of their language in my opinion.
Throughout the years my French became better and better, and it was incredibly motivating to be able to understand what French conversations around me were about, for example when French mothers were waiting for their children in school. One time for instance, I volunteered to help out at a parent teacher conference and hence helped to show the families around. One French family tried to find a room, and approached me for help in broken English. The woman was unsure what teacher they were looking for, but the man accompanying her knew and told the woman in French about the teacher and where he thought the room was. Because of having learned French for so many years, I understood what he said and was able to direct the parents to the correct room, even in French. I tried to be as correct as possible when conjugating verbs and using vocabulary correctly, and it felt really rewarding being able to understand and communicate with this family in a different language. This really showed me how much progress I made, and how I am now able to understand human beings from somewhere else of the world, even though they have a different culture, a different background, and a different language. I had the chance to encounter very funny and expressive French people, and I am very glad my knowledge of the French language enables me to engage with this culture and the French people in this way.