About learning a new language in your 30s

I meant to write about what I have been going through in last months and it took a while to get my head around it.

You see, just to give you a bit of a background, in November 2015 I moved to France to learn French. I have to admit I had some basic French but I was at the most on an intermediate level. As I am a natural optimist and I get excited by challenges most of the time, I assumed that it will all be EASY!

Annecy in French Alps, the place I picked, is simply beautiful, breathtaking and has it all: a lake, mountains, delicious food and it’s close to Switzerland, Italy…. Do I have to say anything else? Just look at these pictures.

Old town 

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#Annecy #winter #snow #mountains #France #oldtown

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Before coming here I decided to immerse myself totally in French language, culture and environment. ‘None of that English speaking and hanging out with other English speakers’ I told myself! ‘By May 2016 you will be fluent no matter what!’ I’ve found online a decent looking school, signed up for a month of an intensive French course (4 x 45 mins lessons a day, Mon-Fri) and I reserved a room in a shared apartment with other students. I preyed for some reasonable individuals that will be passionate about French. I could see us reading Le Petit Prince while sipping this beautiful Cote du Rhone…. I imagined cycling to school every day and I pictured falling leaves onto my path. It would be pretty and sunny, simply perfect I thought.

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#Annecy #boats #Frenchalps #france

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Here is the list of things I didn’t envisage and didn’t expect:

  1. BEING TIRED – I was very, very tired, not only mentally but physically. I started my class on Monday. On Friday I overslept and felt like I had a flu. My muscles ached, I was extremely tired and confused. I still went to school (not wasting that fee I paid!). In the afternoon I had a nap and I was fine again. I wasn’t sick. My body just got tired from all the new things. New place, new language, new people, it all takes a lot of effort. My advice would be to give yourself some space, allow your body to adjust.
  2. MAKING FRIENDS – I made amazing friends from all around the world. Colombia, Australia, Brazil, USA, India, you name it! People from different backgrounds, cultures and with different motivations (an aspiring young lawyer with a career planned in Geneva, a ski resort receptionist who wants to just learn French). Two of my new friends are my ex flatmates. And yes, we drank that Cote du Rhone, we even cooked together but we didn’t bother with reading neither speaking in French… It was easy to make friends especially that most of people came here on their own, so they are more open and keen to start conversation. The school I picked has a Language Corner 2.0 club for students. The club organises nights out, cooking classes and tickets for local hockey games, which is a great help for shy people. 

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    #thanksgiving in #Annecy with #friends

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  3. STRUGGLING WITH GROUP CONVERSATIONS – I struggle/d to follow conversation in a group larger than 2. Yes, feels like watching several games of tennis at the same time, if you have more than two people talking to one another. My solution is to follow one conversation. It will come but within time. Patience…
  4. DREAMING IN A NEW LANGUAGE – I dreamt in French. Yes! I had some weird dreams, one was simply a copy of the beginning of the Star Wars movie with French words moving through the space. My second notable one was with the words flying in front of me in the sky like meteors and I was reading them aloud. The frustrating part was that although I had an excellent pronunciation, I didn’t remember what these words meant! In addition I was sure I knew them…
  5. IT’S SLOW AT THE START – The learning is slower that I expected. I repeat the same mistakes all over again. At least now I correct myself straight away. In addition I tend to mix languages. I am able to use Polish, English and French in one sentence, depends how tired I am. A sample sentence for you in Frenglish (French with English): I pense que tu left ton livre in th’ecole = I think you left your book in the school. Easy, right?
  6. BEING ANGRY – I am/was frustrated. With myself and others. People might underestimate you and your abilities only because you can’t fully express yourself. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you will treasure every single occasion when you can speak your first language and fully express yourself and make jokes. Yes, making jokes in a new language is a hard thing! When you managed once, you will feel rewarded for all that hard work you’ve put in.
  7. LISTENING MORE – I pay more attention to body language and non verbal cues like facial expressions and a tone of voice. To communicate better, we need to listen more. Considering fact I can’t say much without sounding like a kid, it makes me a great listener! This stops me from blurting! Not a bad thing!
  8. ENJOYING SCHOOL – I had a great class and teachers. I had absolutely amazing time at school. Everybody was extremely helpful and supporting. I would not think twice about going back to IFALPES school. During my month there I realised mainly how much I don’t know. I am really grateful for the tips on how to continue studying on my own and what to do to progress.
  9. LISTENING v SPEAKING & READING v WRITING – I can understand more than I can say and I can understand more while reading than I can write myself. I’ve just spent 1,5 hour with an accountant speaking French last week and I was pretty happy with the outcomes. Level of awesomeness: 8 out of 10.
  10. NEW OPPORTUNITIES, CHANGING MY LIFE – Speaking more that one language has many advantages and definitely can help in finding a new job and identifying new opportunities. I’ve never imagined that I will open my own business in France. I really wanted to be my own boss, especially since I worked in a startup, but I didn’t have an idea that I could build on. I didn’t know what I can offer. When I came to France to do some research on a market in June 2015 I realised that the proximity to Geneva gives French a unique opportunity to work in many NGO and international organisations based there. The key recruitment requirement is fluency in English. BINGO! Combining my Recruitment and PM experience, fluency in English, I can offer Business English lessons and Interview preps. And here I am opening my own consultancy next month!  Considering fact that by 2020 50% of workforce will be freelancers I am ahead of the game! I still didn’t decide on the company name but I will figure something out. Wish me luck! Check my page

And yes, I cycled everyday. One of the most enjoyable activities possible to imagine. So enjoyable that I kept the bike.

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