Last night I attended a soiree organized by an online magazine dedicated to building a community of people who have some connection to France/the French in their lives (more to come on this in a future post).
In addition to meeting some really cool Australians, Americans and French people who are currently living in Paris, I got something really amazing out of this little shindig: Encouragement.
About to reach the six-month-mark of living here in Paris and still having only basic (though improving!) French, I often get down on myself for not having made more progress. I even wrote about it, here. And although I would argue that, among all the places in France to live, Paris is the easiest place to get by if you have only an elementary understanding of French, I expected more from myself on the language front by now.
When I arrived at last night’s event, I was unsure if I’d even be able to communicate with anyone, and was nervous that people would look down their noses at me for being a French resident who still speaks almost entirely in English. But on the contrary, I was met with a barrage of understanding and motivation! A lot of these people had come to France with little to no French training, and are now either speaking fluently or enough to communicate well in nearly every situation. And the kicker? It took them all about a year-and-a-half to get there.
“Six months?!” One woman said. “You’ve got to give yourself more time. There’s no way you could expect to be speaking a lot of French in only six months.”
“At around six months I thought I was speaking great French because I didn’t know it well enough to know the mistakes I was making. At one year I actually was more frustrated because I could hear my mistakes. Eventually you just have to stop caring and stop feeling embarrassed and it gets easier.”
I woke up this morning with a renewed sense of determination to tackle this language, and I’m grateful for the words of wisdom these fellow expats were able to share. Finding out that I’m not failing as hard as I thought I was: not a bad way to spend a Wednesday evening, eh? 🙂