Man, I really should have studied French harder in college.
That’s how I ended my last post. Actually, I did study hard, got good grades in my three French classes, and was only three hours short of getting a French minor.
The reason I didn’t get the minor was that when I showed up for the first class of The History of the French Language, a 3-hour class taught in English, I realized I was in over my head. It was in the fall, after a summer full of not speaking French, and the girl in front of me asked Professor Honeycutt if he would teach the class in French. She asked this in French, and the girl next to her nodded in agreement. The teacher said he couldn’t do that, but I dropped the class the next day anyway.
It was one of the best decisions of my college career. I’m so glad that today I don’t have to tell people that I have a French minor but about the only thing I can still say is “I speak a little French.”
The problem wasn’t that I didn’t study hard enough. The problem was I didn’t need to use it outside of class. And inside of class, what I said didn’t matter as much as how I said it. You know what I mean: If your teacher asks you to tell about your pet, and you have a dog, but you’ve forgotten the word for dog, but you remember the word for cat, suddenly you have a cat. The professor isn’t asking you because he’s concerned about the animals in your life, he simply wants to see if you can put sentences together.
It’s not a silver bullet, but putting yourself in a place where you need to use a language in a meaningful way is key to learning a language. That’s one of the foundations of Education First, named the official supplier of language programs for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. EF was founded in 1965 by Bertil Hult in Sweden, “on the principle that cultural immersion was a superior way to study a language.”
Below are five EF commercials about people learning a language where it’s spoken. Granted, they glamorize the whole expat experience, but they are commercials, not documentaries.
I just wish that I could become fluent by watching cool videos about cool people living in cool places—and not have to worry about conjugating verbs.
The commercials are called “Live the Language.”
(By the way, who knew that speaking Australian and Canadian was so easy? Almost as easy as what they speak over in England).
(“About Us” and “EF in Brief,” Education First)
[photo: “cafe,” by pim van boesschoten, used under a Creative Commons license]