I grew up with a mother who had an accent. I remember a time when we were in the pool and she was speaking to me in Spanish (because our relationship is in Spanish) and someone told her to speak in English because she was in America. I remember at times having to translate her English so people could understand what she was trying to say. I never understood her frustration at times, because I understood my mother. I loved her accent. I wanted it at times because I thought it was the best sound in the world, coming home with friends who had never met her and surprised at my Spanish background (because I obviously don’t “look” like someone who speaks Spanish). It was something that made my mother unique (out of obviously the other countless things that do).
Then I moved abroad, and one day I got the accent. I can’t deny that these past two years I have been lucky to meet people that absolutely love the accent and are welcoming to their country. I got a reality check when I started school. I have met my fair share of people, who I am very lucky and fond of (they make sure I am following the classes and understand well, telling me if I ever need help they are a phone call away). I have also met people that roll their eyes and probably wonder how I ever got into the university.
On top of not speaking the language perfectly, I have walked into a school system that I was not prepared for from a young age. We are interrogated every week about what we learned last class (you never know if it will be you), KNOW YOUR GEOGRAPHY, learn about historical figures that you actually know about but just a heads up, sometimes the names are different (this is for the foreigners), and you can not skip class more than three times (I didn’t skip class much back home anyways). For now, homework has just been reading but I have to re-read everything more than once to truly grasp the concept. What takes a French student 30 minutes to read can take me an hour or more if I want to understand most of it.
So, if you can imagine, I am asking millions of questions about everything. I can over think assignments since I don’t truly know what professors are expecting. I asked a professor about an introduction they wanted us to write. They had said “we” had all done that style of introduction in high school, and I explained that I hadn’t. I asked if they would be willing to send examples, etc. They told me to check online while she looked at me with what felt like an odd expression on her face (“how did you get in here”). I can’t forget about the other professors who have acclimated me to their classes and asked if I am following ok and I can always send them emails.
I am certainly not bashing the French system. There is a reason why it has a good reputation. People here know their stuff. I am just saying the French can sometimes be proud.
I came to this country because I have been in love with the language since I can remember. I came to this country because it gave me opportunities I could not get back home. I know I have to work if I want to achieve my dream, and trust me, I want and am willing to.
Honestly, this post isn’t even about the French. It’s about the people that don’t understand the difficulties about living away from your roots. It’s about the people that spit in our faces and tell us to speak their language because we are in their territory. It’s about the people that don’t respect the fact that we are trying our hardest to learn their language. I do not remember where I heard this quote, but it went something like this, “broken English is better than no English at all”.