Listening is the Key to Understanding

“J’ai accompli de délicieux voyages embarqué sur un mot.” -Honoré de Balzac

“Just a single word has launched for me many wonderful adventures.”

If I had to sum up everything about my experiences during my summer in France into a few simple words, that word would simply be “listen”.  When I first arrived in France, I had only the most basic understanding of the language. I knew how to communicate well enough to get by living a fairly normal life; I could order food, get places I needed to be, and make small talk with the host family I was living with. As time went by though, I wanted to be able to have more than just the most basic, “Hello, how was your day?” types of conversations with my host parents. I wanted to get to know them on a more personal level, since I would be living in their house for all that time, so I began to make more of an effort to talk to them, despite how difficult that was in the beginning.

At first when I did not fully understand what was being said to me, my host family and I would resort to what was basically like a small game of charades in an effort to be on the same page with one another. However, I was quick to realize that was not the best way to learn the French language, which was the reason for my studying abroad in the first place.

From then on, if I didn’t understand a word or phrase my host family would say to me, instead of going back to our charades game, they would find a new way of wording what it was they wanted to say to me. I would do the same thing when speaking with them, as well. If I did not know how to say something I wanted to tell them, I would just find a new way to word it to get around it. That way, I was still thinking and speaking fully in French, because keeping in the French mindset at all times is important when learning it as second language.

Just giving my host family, and whoever else was speaking to me in French, my 100%, undivided attention while they were speaking taught me so much more about the language than any textbook or worksheet could ever do. Listening to them speak to me, asking questions if I did not understand things, and remaining focused on what they were saying to me was an excellent way for me, or anyone else in the same position, to learn. I left France at the end of my time there feeling proud of myself for knowing way more of the language than I ever thought I would.

This is my amazing host family that taught me so much while I living in La Rochelle with them.

-Brittany Dixon ’13

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