During my first month in France, I kept referring back to this phrase as my ‘get out of jail free’ card. Eveytime I was in a situation where I had to think about what I had to say in French I’ll just say ‘je ne parle pas Francais. Parlez-Vous Anglais?’
The reason I did this is not because I can’t speak French, but because I refuse to try. For some reason I seem to have reverted back to my first year ‘fear of failure’. This is when during seminars, I would stay completely silent and afraid to speak up. I was so afraid to make a mistake or say the wrong answer that it didn’t matter if I knew the right answer. So instead I stayed silent. And what I realised is that it never helped. Staying silent meant that I was afraid to ask questions about things that I didn’t understand because I didn’t want everyone to think that I was stupid. Staying silent meant that I never knew the correct answers to questions left unanswered in seminars (because everyone else was too afraid to speak). I didn’t know whether or not my answers were right or wrong (and the wrong ones were never corrected) until it was time to do an essay or exam, and by then it was too late.
And here I am, in France, going back to a habit that I thought I left behind in first year. I have been speaking English because I am afraid of saying the wrong word or the wrong pronunciation. And I know that I should be speaking French and that the whole point of this experience is to learn French and to practice by making mistakes and by being corrected by actual French people.
That is why my goal for October is to speak more French. To make as many mistakes as I can because I want to learn from those mistakes.
This applies to all first year students who will be starting seminars soon. I know that most of you are going to be too scared to speak up and ask questions in seminars. I know you will be too scared because you don’t want to sound stupid, but chances are, whatever you don’t understand, there are others who don’t understand as well and are too scared to ask a question.
If I can attempt to be brave this month, in a foreign country with a foreign language, there is no excuse for why you shouldn’t be brave in your seminars.
Bon chance et bievennue à universite (Good luck and welcome to university)
Wish me luck.