No? That didn’t make any sense. Well, let me explain.
For almost every major, class, graduation requirement, etc., it is required to take a “communications” class. Public speaking, interpersonal communication, and other things like it. Trust me: I’ve taken these classes, and I debated in high school for four years. But that’s not really what communication means.
You don’t know what communication truly means until you’re put into a situation where you feel as if you cannot communicate a lot of your thoughts. This doesn’t mean sitting in Spanish class and asking your teacher what “door” means. I’m referring to when you talk to the people who are providing the very basic necessities of life for you (food, housing, water, etc.) and you struggle to tell them that you need a blanket or you’ll freeze in your sleep that night. Or that you need to keep food in the fridge so you can eat lunch the next day. Or that you have no idea where the bus stop is and your GPS keeps losing signal and you can’t read a map like you used to.
You also don’t understand what it means to be confident until your confidence is truly tested.
I got A’s in French, and I considered myself to be fairly good at speaking the language. Not the best, for sure, but I was good enough to hold up a conversation. If I didn’t understand a question being asked, I was able to bull-shit an answer and get away with it.
That doesn’t work here. Ever.
When I write, I’m not even sure if I’m using the write grammar. Everything is interchangeable, and, honestly, I take that for granted. Right now, I’m constantly thinking in this sequence (and it all happens within about three seconds because I have to, at least, seem like I’m having a conversation):
What am I going to say? “I wanted to eat a sandwich.” Okay, so let’s begin to form a sentence. So “Je –“ WAIT. Past tense or imparfait? Well, it’s an emotion, so it could be subjunctive. But I’m not sure if that’s right. So I’m just going to use imparfait because that seems right (I may have already blurted out words by now because I’m pretty sure my 3 seconds are up). “Je voulais –“ Oh no…do I put a preposition before the infinitive? I don’t think so. “Je voulais manger un…” CRAP HOW DO YOU SAY SANDWICH? I learned this in the 8th grade, come on. Oh it’s the same word as English. So: “Je voulais manger un sandwich.”
Then they look at me blankly. LOL so much for all that hard thinking. They usually say that they don’t understand, which makes me feel unaccomplished and sad. That’s not their fault, though! I feel awful, because this is SO HARD. It’s like I’m incompetent when forming a coherent sentence.
And the thing is: you’re not. Just because you lack communication skills doesn’t mean you’re not smart (double negative?). I always knew this, but it’s shameful to admit that I used to look down on people who couldn’t communicate their thoughts. That sounds really mean and makes me look like an awful person, but a lot of people who are “cultivated for success,” or put success as their highest priority have a tendency to do that. It’s part of our personality type, and, you know, that’s really not okay. This program, however, forced me to switch shoes, and I finally understand what it’s like to feel inferior. Feeling inferior doesn’t mean you are inferior, though. You decide how you want to feel, and nobody can make you feel shitty about yourself without your consent.
I’ve always been into philanthropy and charity events. I do service and I do care about helping others. But there is a part of every activity that reinforces the confidence I have in myself, because I need it. I’m a somewhat insecure person, and people like me need to admit that. Helping another person is different than being the person who needs help, though. I have never needed so much help in my life until now. I have a lot of family members who think I’m goofing off in France, right now, and touring the Eiffel Tower and eating baguettes all day.
BUT THEY ARE SO WRONG.
I cannot emphasize anymore how difficult this is. I have never felt so awkward and lost before in my life. I have never wanted my mother to be at my side as much as now to tell me that I’m going to be okay or to translate things for me. I have never wanted to just step inside the United States just for five minutes before. FIVE MINUTES. That’s all I need. I need to hear English without feeling that I need to hear it even though I do. I want people to stop feeling sorry that I am sucking right now, because I want to actually be good at this. I want to know how I can translate my sarcasm in English to sarcasm in French so these people know my personality and not the one that I’m dressing up so I can speak the language easily. I’m a very impatient person, and I need to get better now.
This sounds like a lot of complaining, because let’s be real: it is. I’m so sorry if this is not what you expected, but I have included a picture of the amazing American bagel I ordered in French to hopefully make up for it:
Whoo! But seriously. I say my French is getting better, but there are times when I feel like I’m getting worse. There are a couple of girls in my group whose French is almost perfect. And it’s not because they’re fluent, but rather that they know how to use the grammar. Yes, we’ve all had the same classes on French grammar and vocab, but none of it really matters unless you know how to use it in real conversation and life. That’s the threshold that is SO difficult to cross. I don’t remember everything I learn, in general, so if I have to refer to a pronoun quickly and have to decide if it is “celle” or “lui,” I’m going to go with the first thing that pops in my head. Some of these kids already have the formula down pat.
Dinner is fun, but I feel like I’m back in kindergarten telling my mother how my first day of school went, when I was struggling to describe what looking at the weather meant.
It’s a re-birth. Literally.
But what are you going to do? Go back to America? Come back as a failure?
Haha. I don’t think so.