[personal profile] abalonepearl
My thoughts on this topic are complex and bizarre, so please don't mind any scattered sentences. If you were speaking with me in person or on Skype, you would be assured that I come by the scatterbrain naturally. And please don't think that I'm trying to sound conceited...I just. I don't know. I struggle sometimes to say my words even in English and not feel guilty for them. Blegh. I don't know.

So throughout my past three years (I've just started the fourth) of studying French, I've undergone a kind of metamorphosis of my views about my place in the Francophone world. At first, I knew that I knew nothing, and was just picking up numbers, colors, and simple verbs, so it was really low pressure. I was totally at peace with my ignorance and was just picking up the basics. At this point, I was pretty much on the same level as everyone else in my French class, but I was happy to be learning how to pronounce words and read aloud in French.

At some point in my second year, another student (not in my year) told me that she'd heard that I was good at French. I remember being surprised by her words and quickly denying them. I was only a second year, after all, and still very new to the language.

During my third year, I began to realize that I enjoyed French more than some of my classmates and that some aspects of it seemed to come more easily to me (pronunciation, and I guess just a desire to participate in class and learn more). But soon, it started to feel kind of like a pressure for me? I was in this weird limbo of being considered good at French by my peers but not feeling super great at it myself. Like, sure, I could do some assignments more easily, and I enjoyed doing them and trying to speak, but as far as my listening comprehension with actual French people, I was so lost.

In the end of second year and throughout third year to the present day, I began to have some thoughts in French. Small ones, and usually not incredibly complex, but they began to happen with increasing frequency (that is to say, maybe 2% of the time as opposed to 0% of the time XD). At first, I was really excited that this was happening and I wanted to share it with everyone. But soon, I realized that it seemed disingenuous of me. I started to feel guilty for sharing when this was happening--like I was bragging about it? Like, "Oh, look at me, I'm so cultured and clearly above everyone." I don't...I don't think that I feel that way (certainly not as much as I used to; I was an insufferable 12 year old, let me tell you). But I still feel guilty about talking about it, even though I *want* to talk about it.

I think more guilt came along with my entry into the world of English as a Second Language classes; I volunteer with a local beginners class for adults, and they're all so much better in English than I am in French. It makes me feel guilty for not having previously understood their struggles in learning English, and I'm so so so incredibly proud of them. But I can't help but feel...out of place with them sometimes? I'm at such an advantage when speaking with them in English (native speaker who has been surrounded by English since birth and been blessed with an education and with a family who encouraged reading and doing well in school).

That's pretty much where I still am: in some weird limbo between beginner and novice, I guess? I know that it's going to take me several more years to reach the level of French that I would like, and I am pretty seriously planning to study it in university (as in, major in it, y'know, that fun stuff). So, this doesn't discourage me from wanting to continue, but it also makes me feel guilty for learning more sometimes?

I guess I've felt that way in English for a long time too. It has felt kind of isolating to enjoy academics in the way that I do, and to happen to have read more as a child and picked up a somewhat broader vocabulary, and have a desire to use it and then, however well-intentioned they may have been, feel isolated by a lot of my peers for it.

I really love and appreciate the people who accept me and my thoughts in whichever words that they happen to come out in, but sometimes I feel so weirdly guilty for enjoying language learning. I guess this might be the product of growing up in a monolingual household, in a monolingual culture? Honestly, your guess is probably as good as mine.
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