Should I Rent an Apartment in Paris & Learn French?
In December, of 2016 I spent a few weeks obsessing over this question:
"Should I Rent an Apartment in Paris
and Learn French?"
I had already done the research and found the one month intensive I wanted to take- at the Sorbonne - and just accepted a lucrative dog sitting gig which would pretty much offset my tuition cost. I felt like this was a crazy idea, but the time had come. I have wanted to learn French now for about 2 years, to complement my Spanish and English and make me a more competent traveler and citizen of the world.
There was a precipitating event that planted the French seed. My Acro Partner (aka my main travel buddy) and I had once gotten stuck in Morocco, and I had to try to make up French based on my Spanish and basic Duo Lingo experience. We made it through, but it was not pretty.
So we discussed it, and figured that between English, Spanish, his spattering of German and actual French, we would be pretty much set to travel most places and at the very least be able to have a basic conversation with somebody.
(Why not Chinese or Arabic, which are far more widely spoken? A few reasons... mostly because I already know a tiny bit of Arabic, and our Asian travel goals currently do not include China. The places in Asia we gravitate towards could be covered with this collection of languages, or worst-case scenario, enthusiastic pantomime)
I'm not particularly gifted at languages, and up until recently, didn't even think I was very good at them. I'm bad at taking tests on languages, atrocious at spelling and little grammatical niceties. I am, however, pretty good at learning to understand what people are saying, respond to them in their language, and mimic pronunciation.
I'm not gonna lie, "Polyglot" is one of my favorite words, and makes me ooze with desire.
Could I maybe become one of those magical people?
I know myself; I need to move to a place to really learn a language. Taking a French Course online or in NYC wasn't going to cut it. I took years and years of Spanish growing up- starting from first grade in a private school- and honestly could not communicate in the language with any comfort. And then, as many undergrads do, I chose to study abroad. I went to Santiago Chile, and just barely made it into a program where I would be attending a local university, with all my courses in Spanish. I had come to realize that it was all or nothing; either full immersion or I would never be able to speak with fluidity.
For a month, I understood nothing.
For the first month, I stared blankly, a lot. I was nervous to speak... and then... I changed host families, and moved in with a wonderful woman who worked at the University Library. I was reading Anna Karenina at the time, and she commented on the book, in Spanish. Then suddenly, Paulina and I were speaking all the time. About books, about culture and cooking. My Spanish ability jumped, and I started to be able to think in Spanish. I practiced talking to myself in Spanish, was the biggest eavesdropper on the public bus/metro and played with translating Beatles songs in my head just to practice. I was still the worst speaker in my program, but I was comfortable. I could mostly understand, and even if I had the finesse of a 4th grader, I was speaking.
Just shy of 10 years later, I went to Spain. And amazingly... Spanish was easier than it had been in the past! I'm sure this has something to do with the brain and neurology... with some unconscious decision to commit Spanish to my deep, long term memory.
Back to French.
This December, I kept thinking "There will never be a better time to do this." Learning French had slowly become one of my life goals. It would be immediately useful. It was now or never, and I wanted to do this.
And I love Paris. I have friends in Paris, the food is incredible, and it's the sort of place where I wake up happy just to be there. And based on my experience with Spanish, I knew I needed both a formal class and immersion.