If you’ve been watching my social media, you know that I recently started learning French again. I took 3.5 years each of French and Spanish in school, and a few months ago I tried getting back into Spanish. As it turned out, I really don’t like Spanish, and after stumbling over the language for several weeks, I made the choice to go back to French. I’ve always loved the sound of French and wanted to speak it, so I figured it would be better to go with something I have a passion for. It’s often said that loving a language is key to sticking with learning it.
So here I am, a week into my French lessons. At the beginning I thought “Oh, this ought to be so easy! It’ll just be a refresher course and I’ll be able to progress really quickly!” At first, that’s how it felt. I was suddenly remembering a ton of things from school, which felt great, especially since we’re talking about stuff that I learned in 4th through 6th grade. (That was a long time ago!) Then today came, and I felt crushed. It took multiple tries to understand that they were saying “le chat, les chats” (the cat, the cats) because it sounded like the same thing twice. “L‘araignée” (the spider) was equally baffling. I discovered that while I can read really well and type pretty well, I can’t understand what I hear.
French is one of those languages that’s all soft and flowy and continuous. That’s what makes it so beautiful, and also what makes it so damn hard. There are a ton of words that sound identical, and a ton of instances where words get melded together and become hard to understand. I felt so unbelievably stupid today. So stupid in fact, that I thought about giving up and trying German since it’s supposed to be easier. Unfortunately, I’m not really fond of the way German sounds. So I spent a large portion of my day feeling totally defeated and horrible. After three years of past study, you’d think I’d have better listening comprehension. Well, at least I thought I would.
Well, after many hours of struggling, I’ve decided I’m going to try sticking with it. I’m terrified that I won’t get any better and I’ll never get the listening parts of the lessons, but I’m going to try. I’m really hoping that I’ll catch on and get it eventually. The hardest part is not beating myself up and feeling bad. (I was taught as a kid that any failure is complete failure and makes you worthless, so yeah, I’m still battling that mental crap.) It’s been ages since I took French, and that was formal French, which has much clearer pronunciations. Unfortunately, lessons don’t really teach that anymore. I’m just going to have to somehow find the patience to keep trying and not batter myself to death for not getting it.
Please wish me luck, and if you have any tips on making listening comprehension, or any part of learning French easier, please drop in a comment.