Learning a new language is a humbling experience. My class at the Alliance Francaise was a blast. The students are a bit like the Village People without the Indian or the policeman. There are accountants, doctors, authors, college and high school students, young and old. It is an incredible and supportive environment. It has to be. We each realize we need all the support we can get.
Since moving to Bratislava, my French aspirations have taken a turn for the worse. To my credit, I wrote to the French Institute as soon as I moved here. After two months and no response, I realized that living in a Slovak speaking country and inquiring about French language instruction with an English email might be a problem. Thirty minutes after sending my French email, I had an answer. “Please stop by and talk to us” (but written in French, bien sur).
Fortunately, the nice young man at the information desk spoke English. Unfortunately, he told me I had to call the instructor. I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, but I do recognize one when I see it. After weeks of avoiding a cell phone conversation, I stop back at the Institute. The teacher I meet is nice. She gently makes me converse with her in French. My confidence is building. I can do this.
In two weeks I have my placement test. I blocked the date on my calendar. I can’t back out now. Two weeks after that, the semester starts. Learning a second language in a country where third, fourth and fifth languages is common place will be challenging. Meaningful goals tend to be hard. But I cling to my aspirations; a career with the Peace Corps, a retirement pied-a-terre in Paris, a life which challenges me, a brief – albeit meaningless – affair with a 30 something French artist who considers me his muse. (note to husband, one of those is a joke).
Learning a second language is an exciting, confidence building, humbling experience. They say the hardest part of life is showing up. I can attest to this. The hardest step towards any goal is the first. Procrastination comes easy to me. Pushing beyond my limits, not nearly so easy. My “bucket list” has a few tough goals; one is to learn French and the other is to run a marathon. But let’s face it, before you run – you gotta learn to walk. I’m getting there.