Izzi, my 14 year-old daughter, got to go to France this summer with her best friend (whose Mom is French). She stayed at grand-mère house in Brittany for the month of July for a total Francophone experience. And just a few weeks before, she had been recognized as the best first-year French student in her middle school. A proud moment for her Mom and Dad, but according to Izzi, the beginning of her downfall in France.
Her friend’s Mom was mightily impressed by Izzi’s award, and made a point to mention it when introducing Izzi to friends and family. It really put her new French friends at ease to know Izzi’s French was so good. Of course, as a first-year student in France for the first time, she was really not that good at all, and had a really long time lag to put a few French words together, to say or even understand.
And as any student of language knows, speaking that second language can sometimes feel like performing in a non-stop piano recital. Izzi quickly faded in the spotlight of high French expectations.
And as her new French connections dissolved into silence, Izzi’s embarrassment grew. Eventually she stopped getting introduced as an award-winning French student. “Was this because I was just so obviously bad? Or was it because my friend’s Mom wanted to spare me the torture of pretending to speak French?” Not that it mattered. Embarrassment has a way of shining thru in any situation. Her conclusion: “Being an award-winning student of French was the worst thing that could have happened to me in France.”
My conclusion: language study is a big time sink and can get you into lot of trouble. I never won awards in French, that’s for sure. But now I speak in French with the fluency of a native speaker, along with 149 other languages, and all without cracking a book, and in no time at all. It could not be easier. The secret? To be revealed later.