As our four-week session in Rennes comes to a close, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been doing a lot of reflecting on the progress we’ve made and the experiences we’ve had here in France. Speaking personally, I’ve definitely been feeling more confident with the French language in the last leg of the trip. Part of it may just be the fact that now I really feel like on some level, I do speak French, and I know from my time here that I can get by in French without relying on translators all the time. For the most part, and in the things that most matter, the locals can understand me and I can understand them. This marks a serious amount of growth for me personally, as I know that my weakest area starting the program was in my listening skills. My oral comprehension has grown remarkably, likely because it’s the skill we use most. Logically, that makes sense: in a classroom setting and in simple conversations with the family, I’m listening more than I’m speaking, reading, or writing.
Thinking back to before the program had started, I think I expected a lot more of a focus on reading/writing, since that’s what I’d had experience with in a language class at school. Now that I’ve gone through the course, I’m not really surprised that the focus was set on speaking and listening, since those are the skills that have the best opportunity for development through interactions with locals and our host families. Activities like discussion circles and daily Q&A’s with the teacher helped reinforce these particular skills. At my school back in the States, I was lucky enough to have a teacher who placed emphasis on interpersonal speaking skills in class, but I know lots of students have never had that kind of experience before, at least not to the extent that we’ve been working with here in Rennes. Another cool thing we’ve been doing as part of the program is presentation speaking, since we present a project via Google Slides once a week. In the U.S., weekly presentations just aren’t feasible. Reading novels and writing essays makes more sense when you don’t have access to a city (or country) full of native speakers.
Throughout the program, a large part of the way I’ve been marking my progress with French has been through interaction with my host family. An easy marker of language acquisition for me is is how many puns I can pick up on in any particular day -- no joke. Maybe it’s my natural partialness to plays on words, but being able to get language-centered jokes in French feels like a little victory. The same feeling comes from successfully holding conversation with locals, particularly through our weekly “Into the Community” activities, which usually require asking three to five strangers a few questions. As someone who’s pretty uncomfortable talking to strangers even in English, these activities have proven difficult for me, but I can still see the value in having spontaneous, natural interactions with native speakers. These activities have probably helped me the most with my listening skills here.
One of my favorite exercises in the class on this trip has been the project from this week. We’ve been working on discussing the things we’ve done, and the things we plan to do before we leave Rennes, before the end of summer, and beyond. It’s an easy way to practice language skills like the future tense and the subjunctive, while also brainstorming the things we want to get done before we leave. It’s become more and more real that our time here is coming to a close, and this culminating project is starting to feel like closure.
My next blog post will (sadly) be my last. We return to our normal lives this Saturday -- wish us luck!
'Global Navigator Voices' is a collection of blog articles and pictures by our very own high school study abroad participants. Follow their adventures before, during, and after their experiences abroad!