A few posts earlier I was asking Paris what exactly it’s got for me, but now two months living here I guess I’ve got my answers just in place. Let’s just say that it has taught me a whole lot about myself than anything else could have.
Learning a new language came naturally to me. In our Delhi home where my parents continue to live, we juggled between Kumaoni (our mother tongue) and Hindi. We were sent to English-medium school so obviously we acquired a ‘new’ language in no time. A couple of years down the line, the group housing society we lived in saw a lot of Bengalis and we could effortlessly understand at least the non-complex linguistic structures and banter in broken Bengali with a few family friends who’d frequent our house. I purposely said effortlessly because there are a few similarities in both Kumaoni and Bangla. Besides, along came feasting on each others’ regional delicacies. We’d cook maach-bhaath and relish on kanchaa-gola and sandesh too and they’d love our daal-bhaat and baal-mithaai!
Anyway after Kumaoni, Hindi, English and Bangla was Deutsch which papa’s friend thought will be a boost to my career.Remember I was still in my first year at the university. OK. So here I am convinced by my family that I should learn this ‘foreign’ language which I did, but alongside my regular Bachelor’s in English Literature. As much as I was in love with Literature, I slowly began to fall in love with German too although I’d heard from others that it is not one of those romantic European languages. I continued with learning it for about good 3 years (almost) before waving it a good-bye and with no intention of pursuing it as a career interest. Yes, I gave 3 years to it, but didn’t try finding a job as a translator or interpreter and while I say that I would say learning it meant effort and practice as you’re beginning from the beginning.
Now after Deutsch came French out of nowhere except when years later my then friend (from Goethe Institut) who is also now my husband went to France for higher studies. I had to enroll for a debut course due to my visa requirements and must I say I enjoyed it a hell lot. German did interfere and suddenly it was the only language I could think in. It took me some time (again) to clean my slate and be overpowered by this exceptionally beautiful language. We were taught how to buy un sandwich at a boulangerie or buy un billet dans un bus among a list of other things. But, when I moved to France and literally when thrown in a pool where people speak only French I was overcome by a sense of bewilderment I never thought I’d find myself in. But, this taught me to be patient with myself and understand and draw from my previous experience of learning languages.
I’ve surrounded myself with French. I watch French programmes on television so much so that my current favs are Les Reines du Shopping et Maison à vendre! In between I watch a cartoon series Pepa and the Pig (it’s fun!) and listen to a few songs too of which Je ne veux pas travailler is topping the chart! Besides this I pick up some magazines lying around in the house or in the cinema hall and decode the articles in it with the help of my ever so patient husband!
The key is to keep yourself occupied with language without getting flustered. You’ll also have to let go of the thoughts of mastering it in no time just because everyone around you speaks fluently. Remember they’ve been speaking it since forever and you are only a few days, weeks into it! Also speak as much French as you can. Speak slow. Speak clearly. And, when in a metro or a tram or a bus…try and listen to people around you. Get a hang of the accent!
Stop giving excuses. Step up.
It would have been much more easier for me had I moved to an English-speaking country, but since the reality was different I learnt to buckle up and gather myself. Yes, I was missing home and would sulk to myself, but how was it going to help me? I would worry that I don’t know French (contrary to my understanding of it) and keep myself home as if the world here doesn’t know English at all. Silly, no? I can be this flustered sometimes! But anyway, I decided to just step up and be out there in the neighbourhood and explore.
Just two days back I went to a jardin or a garden to soak up some sun. It was a bright day and I came back smiling!
Never be afraid to speak to people
Why should you? May be they are as anxious as you are? I overcame this by visiting a shop close to our place and spoke to the owner. This store was particularly interesting to me because it has vintage stuff in it and was inviting! We spoke in broken English and French and it was sure a good lot fun. This is how your break the barriers you build in your own head, isn’t it?
I used to blog a decade back. I used to write poems mostly, but with university and then work life I couldn’t write as often as I imagined myself to be. But exactly two years ago I registered on WordPress with absolutely zero posts to begin with. A year ago I published two and I thought may be now is the time to start writing for the world to read; unfortunately the sabbatical didn’t last long and I got back to working again. However, now that I have enough time I’m back to writing regularly and hope to keep it going! I’ve so many stories in words and photographs to share, but that’s going to happen slowly.
I’m sure there’s a lot more lessons to be learnt and that I’ll accept this new spot as my own.