April 24, 2015, by Rachel Bainbridge
Confidence is key!
My time in France so far has been a fantastic experience which has given me an invaluable opportunity to expose myself to everyday spoken French. However, when it comes to the immediate fluency that we all hope for, perhaps this is a little bit of an unrealistic goal for within the first few months.
I feel that my comprehension has improved considerably, but when it comes to speaking myself, I am still sometimes embarrassed by what I can produce.French sounds so elegant and beautiful when spoken by a francophone (especially when I can understand what is being said!). However, it’s one thing listening in on a conversation between some Francophones and feeling pleasantly surprised at what you have understood, but a whole other board game when you are involved in that conversation and have to produce fully coherent, grammatically correct sentences in split-second time frames. When I build up the courage to contribute to the conversation, at times, I am left feeling slightly uncomfortable at my inability to mask my British accent as I try my best to mimic the soft sounds produced by the Francophones around me.
I have made some French friends and I see them often. With them I feel at ease and confident as I know we are on equal footing and we have a lot in common. Nevertheless, I mostly spend my time with the most amazing group of Anglophones and Spanish-speakers. We sometimes dabble in French, which actually gives me so much more confidence as I realise we are all in the same boat. Confidence is key!
I am now trying my hardest to increase my French immersion by joining local sports clubs, going to see French films, meeting up with my French friends and trying to take the initiative to communicate in French instead of English at all times.
Unexpectedly, my English has gone through several transition phases whilst abroad. At first, to every non anglophone, I spoke in a put on a very clear and neutral English accent in order to make myself well understood. Recently, however, I have let this slide and have slipped into my natural accent. This poses a hilarious yet slightly awkward problem when we play ‘Repeat after me’ at school. After having socialised with Americans, Canadians and Australians I have discovered many more lexical variants of English which never cease to make us laugh and intrigue us and make me realise how difficult it must be to learn English.
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