I was having one of my random bouts of nostalgia last night and was flipping through my 2009 day planner from my study abroad semester in France. I spotted a quote that I had written down and remember why I had liked it so much! Here it is:
“Si on vous met un ballon entre les mains, vous n’allez pas passer votre temps à l’analyser, vous avez envie de jouer tout de suite avec… c’est pareil avec une nouvelle langue.” -Vassilis Alexakis (auteur de “les mots étrangers”)
Basically, it says: If we put a ball in your hands, you are not going to spend your time analyzing it, you’re going to want to play with it right away… it’s the same with a new language.
That same evening, my dear friend Loule, whom I had met in France, called me. She and her husband live in Gevrey-Chambertain and we have been sporadically in contact since 2009. You can read more about them here (though it’s in French). We talked for about an hour and a half and filled the other person in on all the details and happenings in our lives. While speaking, I was painfully aware of my awkward accent, but gradually it became more natural like it used to be. I wrote down a couple of new words while listening to her: entouré, se fréquenter, chargé, contrefaçon. I miss her a lot. She told me how she was practicing her English by reading the Bible everyday in English and then in the evenings she would read it in French. I shared with her about God’s providence and faithfulness in my life and she did the same. How wonderful it is to be able to support one another in faith though we haven’t seen each other in so long. It’s a blessing that I will never cease to thank God for.
Going back to this quote, it reminded me that learning a language is an active process. It’s all about play and interaction. Your whole mind is involved – words that you think you’ve forgotten come back to you and new words that you haven’t heard before (or enough) stick with you. As you become more engaged in the conversation, you stop focusing on mentally structuring a sentence and instead, it forms on its own as you speak it. Learning a new language is like reuniting with an old friend. It makes me happy.