For the first time since being at OU, this past semester I was able to take the fun French classes. By fun, I mean classes that go beyond weekly grammar lessons and vocab lists. In “French Conversation and Literature” and “Advanced French Conversation and Phonetics,” I found myself growing more familiar with the language and making mental connections like never before while simultaneously losing a few grammar skills and verb conjugations. In my first ever French class in 6th grade, I would have never ever considered perfect verb conjugations as “unessential.” Although, after speaking with international students, abandoning my reliance on English everyday at the classroom door, and consuming authentic, not-made-for-the-textbook French stories and articles, I have gained a grasp on what parts of a language really matter for beginners trying to learn how to converse.
In fact, learning this stuff is much more fun and rewarding than memorizing formulaic rules and conjugations. Also, it is better to jump into a challenging conversation or a reading, full of unknown vocab and tenses, than completely deny yourself of the opportunity because “you’re not quite at that level yet.” I wish that someone would have told me this when I began my French journey nearly ten years ago. I would have been more willing to speak aloud with grammar mistakes and watch French movies with frighteningly fast dialogue. I would have cared less about memorizing items for a grammar quiz to get that “A” and put more of an emphasis on achieving a better understanding of the language for the future, for outside of the classroom.
Thankfully, though, I can feel myself reaching a new level of comprehension and appreciation for the French language. I sometimes say little French phrases to myself while going about my day. I can finally understand about 85% of the News in Slow French weekly podcast. I have yet to dream in French (which my professor said is the ULTIMATE goal), but with another class or two and some travel I think it is an entirely possible achievement.
Folks, learning a foreign language sure is fun. Even if it feels a bit clumsy, your persistence will reward you in time. I hope to start at square one with another foreign language (Arabic, perhaps), because nothing feels better than realizing that something you once knew nothing of is now a familiar part of your everyday routine.