Three years of my life as an EU student of English Literature at the University of East Anglia,England.
Learning languages has been part of my life since I was in primary school and is very important to the school system in France. However, I’m not talking about learning lots and lots of languages nor am I talking about the hardest and most exotic ones: no, I am simply talking about English and the love I’ve slowly developed for it over the years.
In normal non-international French schools, learning English is compulsory and students usually study it for at least 7 years (until your Baccalaureate )! On top of that, you have to learn a third language (most of the time you can pick Spanish, Italian or German) for five years. I consider myself lucky to be French so that’s one tough language out of the way! Nowadays, being able to speak English is almost a necessity. My third language was Spanish because it is very similar to French but I never liked it much and have forgotten almost everything. Despite this system giving so many opportunities, so many people ended up being pretty bad in both languages and it’s a real shame. However, I’m far from blaming them because I know I’ve been very lucky with the schools I went to and the English teachers I had, particularly in college, and I also realise that being forced to learn something doesn’t motivate you at all (ugh, maths).
If I am bilingual in English now, it is also because of a lot of personal work: it’s like English found me! I remember discovering English bands when I was 13/14 and trying to translate the lyrics. In college, I started borrowing books from British friends (I had to look up half the words in a dictionary at the start, it was horrible), writing in English, watching things in English (I didn’t always understand everything and still needed subtitles)… But now, I am able study and live in England, I could go live or work in so many different parts of the world, and I hope I get to use French and English in my job! I never ever thought I would do something like that, but here I am! It wouldn’t have been possible without all the extra work, without some amazing teachers or without amazing people who helped along the way.
It’s all about perseverance and when I see how far I’ve gone, I am really proud of myself and have a real sense of achievement.
I am mainly talking about learning English, but it doesn’t matter which language you’re learning: it is an amazing opportunity to learn new things, to meet new people, to travel, to work and to discover all sorts of things (from bands to literature, TV shows and comedians)! Now, I can’t imagine my life being confined to France and to French culture, to translated films, translated novels and even missing out on Monty Python!!! Learning Spanish has also taught me things about Spain or Spanish bands or cinema for instance, and it even allowed me to go on a school trip to Barcelona and to live with locals during secondary school. I wish I’d studied it more and that I’d been able to learn a fourth language in college (I considered doing Italian but chose to do more English instead).
I’m also convinced that learning languages opens your mind and we need more of this in the world. So open yourself to people and to their cultures! If you want to learn a language, do it! With internet, there really is no excuse not to learn or practise to become even better 🙂