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Monday, 4 August 2014

A Swiss Summer

I have spent the last three weeks in Geneva, Switzerland. I am taking a 'petit pause' from real-life and I've decided to grasped various opportunities that have conspired to allow me to dedicate a whole month to breathing life back into my deflated French. I've always been a Francophile, somehow feeling at ease and at home in a French speaking mileu and what's more, I love the puzzle and challenge of practising and learning a new language. It's like a never ending crossword!

I studied French at university, along with Spanish and Politics. I had neglected my French since my graduation in 2004 and I realised that if I didn't do something soon, I would lose a skill and a very solid basis in a language in which I had invested over 15 years of study to achieve a degree level standard. So, for the last three weeks I've been in class at 8.30 every morning, plunging myself deep into the curiosities of French grammar and re-immersing myself in the wonderful world that is the subjonctif! I'm all too aware that this is just the beginning - if I truly want to master the language it will take a commitment to self-directed study. That said, I have been both pleased and frustrated in equal measure at how in just three weeks I have felt the memory of this dormant language begin to unfurl, to spread its wings and to stretch out its limbs in my mind. But it feels like a patient who has been bedridden for weeks and is just feeling well enough to take its first tentative steps into the light. Yes everything is there, the legs, arms, skeleton and muscles are all intact, but they are stiff and sore and weak. They need to take things slowly but to be used more and more each day to return to their former strength. That's how I feel about my French after these three weeks. I know that I have a particular aptitude and interest in languages but I am equally, painfully, aware that unless I build up my strength, practise and use my French by actually living life in French, I may never reach my goal of being a fully functioning fit and healthy specimen, I may be stuck faltering, taking tentative and wobbly steps rather than progressing confidently and with strength and self-assurance. What this short period of immersion has taught me is that I love learning, speaking and reading French and while fluency may be the ultimate goal, there is much enjoyment on the journey towards that goal. If it takes a life-time, so what - we're allowed to dream! Having this opportunity has reignited my determination to continue to practice and strengthen my ability in the language - who knows where it will take me!

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