What’s the use of French?
We have a brilliant guest post from Jess, on her final week of Erasmus Programme in Nantes, France. Team Lingotastic only exists because of the Erasmus programme, we met in the UK as native German Maik came over with the Erasmus programme. But, enough of our story, over to Jess…
“What is the point of learning French ? Surely they can all speak English over there?”
I am faced with this question almost daily. Friends, family, acquaintances, the internet, even celebrities seem to find learning a second language pointless and a waste of time. (In the words of Jeremy Paxman earlier this month, English is the “only language that you must have”, and learning French is “positively bad for you”)
So, what is the use of French? I often struggle to find the words to answer this question quickly, but in brief: language really is so important in our lives. From the beauty of communication, to the gateway to getting about, language really is essential. We go about our daily business using it, and without language, the world would be completely silent. Learning a second language on top of your mother tongue really is a journey, and you can learn so much more about the world and yourself by doing so. Not everybody on this earth speaks English, and learning French has opened up my mind and given me so many new skills that I would never have gained before.
I started my language journey at age 12 in secondary school. Like most of the kids in the class, I never really saw how French could be “useful”, and had a similar mindset to people such as Paxman, thinking that if I spoke English really loudly when abroad everyone would have to understand me (just a hint, this doesn’t work) . It was only at 16 that everything clicked into place, and by watching French films, reading French editions of Cosmopolitan Magazine and listening to French music, I started to see how the language fitted into another culture. I was lucky enough to have a French teacher at A Level who really gave me a love for the language, enough so that I chose to pursue it at a degree level.
It is true when they say that you only really learn a language when you become immersed in it. Thanks to the Erasmus Programme, I have been able to study in Nantes, France for the past academic year, and meet the most wonderful people from all around the world. Erasmus is a wonderful scheme and an excellent opportunity for all language learners, as it lets you study or work in the country where your chosen language is spoken, and offers a lot of financial support. I would recommend this programme for anyone looking to improve their language skills, or even start from scratch, as immersion is a great way of getting into a new language and culture.
Learning French in France has helped me improve considerably. You really cannot comprehend how important having a second language is until you live daily life outside of an English speaking country. From organising accommodation, paying rent, getting the bus to going food shopping…all of this requires you to communicate and understand what is being said. You will pick up so quickly, and after a few weeks, it became a second nature. I’ve managed to learn so many quirky expressions, learn so many amazing stories and pick up things that make perfect sense in French but do not even have a meaning in English. I think this is so valuable and special, and helps me love France and French even more.
The skills I have learnt living in France have also been so valuable. Languages teach you so much. You have to think on your feet always, and you have to be confident enough to laugh off the mistakes you make whilst also learning from them. I do not regret moving over to France one bit, and would do this year all over again if I had the time and money. It has been amazing to get this opportunity to go out there and be a part of French society, and speaking the language really makes you feel a part of France.
So the point really of learning a language is that you open your mind. It can take days, weeks, or even years to feel like you have mastered a language, but the skills you gain along with is will aid you for life. I am grateful that my languages journey has been so positive, and I hope that when I qualify as a teacher, my journey can help others to start their own.
If you want to read more of Jess’s time in France check out her blog