French Fears

Before leaving the States, I told everyone I'd be fluent by the time I came back. I was convinced that I'd be speaking French flawlessly by December. Unfortunately... this is not the case, but I am still learning, and that's just fine.
I'm proud of how far I've come in this language, but I still have a long way to go before I reach fluency, and at this point I can't imagine I'll be there by June.
My French has improved drastically. I came from nearly crying during a math class because I understood almost nothing, to easily watching the new Disney movie, Frozen, in French. Listening comprehension has become almost second nature, and I no longer have excuses for not understanding lectures in class. Speaking has also gotten much, much better, but I still make plenty of mistakes, and have a very heavy accent. Writing and reading, on the other hand, still need a LOT of work. While I've been sitting through 2 hour lectures in class and speaking with my host family at home, the majority of the writing/reading I do here is still in English. I'm writing this blog right now, in English. I email my family back home, in English. I do my work for my online English class, in English. So there hasn't been as much as an improvement in writing.

Right now I'm at a static point. The first couple months my French improved exponentially, but now the gains are much slower. I need to put renewed effort in now. I've realized how difficult fluency is, and it's  made me appreciate languages so much more. It's made me proud, as crazy as this sounds, to even be fluent in a single language. It's absolutely amazing that I can type this out so easily, even if it is in my native language. The words just flow and I don't need to stop and try to remember how to conjugate a verb because it just flows. It's an amazing feeling.

Two of my main goals for coming here were to 1. become fluent in French and 2. become conversational in Darija. It's hard to accept that neither of these things will probably happen, but I'm not going to settle for that and stop working.

 One of the hardest parts about exchange is balance. Balance. Finding the balance between going out and exploring or taking some "me" time. Finding the balance between making new friends or spending time with the host family. Balance between school work here and my online English class. It's hard to find balance, but in order to have it I have to realize that I can't do everything. If I came here solely to learn french then I wouldn't have some of the amazing friends that I have here. If I came here solely to make friends, then my relationship with my host family would be rough. If I came here just for school work then I probably wouldn't have had some of the wonderful cultural experiences that I've had.

I've to make some compromises on the way, but I'm doing good. I'm realizing that some of my expectations for myself were unrealistic... but in the end, what I am learning and the ways I am growing go beyone my expectations.


  1. This is about the time of year where I needed a major shift in thinking. I was fortunate to find a really good Arabic tutor and by April I was spending far more time with Arabic than with French. I don't know how your hopes and goals differ from mine, but I'd guess that your French fluency is already quite impressive and will be much more so in June. One thing that really helped my reading was just dedicated time reading: I picked up Le Père Goriot from my Littérature class and spent many hours with that (very good) book and a solid French Dictionary.
    If you get to a point in French that you're happy enough with, I would highly recommend beginning written Arabic. Ask Sarah about the textbook Al Kitaab; a basis in standard Arabic (or at least the alphabet!) will help your Darija immensely and still be useful when you get home.

    But of course you'll need to find your own balance, I know mine was quite language-heavy. It sounds like your year is going well, and I hope you can find that elusive sense of balance. Bonne courage and allah y7fDik (الله يحفظك)!

    1. Thanks so much for this Caleb! It's really helpful to see how past students got through the same problem we're going through! Arabic is not as much as a focus for me unfortunately, but French is definitey something I'm working on! Thank you so much for your advice!


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