I started taking figure skating lessons when I was six years old, which prompted me to also take ballet at the same time. I stopped figure skating and continued to do ballet which was my first introduction to the French language. If any of you have experience with ballet, you will know that every ballet term is in French! For example, plié, tendu, piqué, frappé… the list goes on and on. As a young kid I dreamed of being a Prima ballerina at the Paris Opera Ballet, so I wanted to learn the language. When it was time to pick what language I would take in junior high, the obvious choice was French! Once I quit ballet, I didn’t expect to want to continue learning the language, but I stuck with it and it actually became one of my favorite classes.
Having really great French teachers in junior high, high school and at the college-level really helped me to find my confidence in my language-learning abilities. I never imagined that I would be “good enough” at French to take it in college but that is completely false! My high school French teacher Mme Juhl really helped me build my confidence. She believed in my potential to learn the language, continued to push me, and also was a source of support during difficult times. She made a big impact on my experience not only in learning French but also in high school. I don’t think I would have thought to take up French again in college if I had not had such a great experience previously.
I also remember watching a film, maybe my freshman or sophomore year in high school, “Le huitième jour” (The Eighth Day) that really sparked my interest. When we would watch other French films, I never seemed that interested and was frustrated because I couldn’t understand many words. The Eighth Day was one of those movies that you can’t keep your eyes from. The story is so deep and moving—yet also very sad—I felt a desire to really pay attention. For some strange reason, that movie really flipped a switch in my brain and suddenly I was more determined to put more effort into learning the language.
At UIC, Professors Chidlow and Beauval always urged us to try and not be afraid to make mistakes because those mistakes would lead to more learning. And they were right—The mistakes I made helped me to learn more about the language and also increase my confidence. Sometimes I even make mistakes when speaking English (which is the language I grew up speaking) so of course I will make mistakes in French! I truly believe that with the right teacher(s) and determination, anyone can learn a language and be “good enough” at it.
In my future career, I believe my ability to persevere—which I strengthened through learning French—will serve me well. I know that I will make mistakes in the future and that’s okay because I am human!