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пятница, 31 января 2014 г.

Stephanie Dodaro on Learning a Foreign Language


I had a friend in Japan, a Japanese guy, who once said to me that speaking French with me in Japan made him feel like a foreigner in his own country.  This was a good experience for him, being someone who has never traveled outside of his country.  This is what studying a foreign language can do for you.  It is like traveling without leaving your home.  If he had not been able to speak French we probably would never have become friends, since I did not speak so much Japanese at the time and he, almost no English.

Knowing a foreign language opens the doors to the world for you.  It is not an easy process, it takes years and lots of practice and lots of mistake making, but the rewards far outweigh the cons. My journey with French began when I was in high school, and I had a teacher who made it such a wonderful experience, introducing culture and history in her lessons, playing cds or French radio, bringing in posters and just generally being enthusiastic about it.   It opened up a whole new universe for me, one I had not even thought about.  Then the idea of visiting a foreign country became a goal for me.  I continued studying French in college, first because of the language requirement, then because I loved it, was good at it and wanted to major in it.  Then the traveling began. 
Stephanie and her student
in front of a temple in Saitama, Japan.

The first time I traveled to France I realized that I absolutely did not know enough French to communicate easily.  I was frustrated that I had studied 7 years but could barely understand what was said to me and hardly put a sentence together myself.  I must admit my first experience in France was not a good one.  Amazingly I gave it another chance.   I put my nose to the books and really got into full study mode, determined to speak more French the next time I went back.  After every trip, averaging 3 to 4 weeks at a time, I got better and better.  I traveled alone, so I could more easily meet people and make friends and only speak French while there, full immersion!  Noticing that I could speak better if I read lots in French, I started getting magazine subscriptions to my favorites and getting books every time I went to France. 

While home, I seek every opportunity to speak French, joining conversation groups and the local Alliance Francaise and every event they have, meeting tourists, and teaching French, which helps me refresh my memory of vocabulary and grammar that I forget.