Name: Christine Anspach
Location of Study: Tours, France
Program of Study: Institut de Touraine
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures, Nanovic Institute for European Studies
A brief personal bio:
Hello, my name is Christine Anspach and I am currently a junior studying Art History and French. I am originally from New Canaan, Connecticut, a small suburb of New York City. I have a passion for learning new languages and discovering new cultures, and I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to do so at Notre Dame. In my spare time, I love traveling and adventuring (even if it’s just around town), trying new foods, reading anything and everything, and discovering music (new and old), especially by browsing music stores for more albums to put on my record player.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
As a student pursuing a French supplementary major, the Summer Language Abroad award provides me with the ideal opportunity to significantly increase my fluency in French. Immediately following graduation, I hope to teach English in France; I will be applying to both the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program as well as the French Government Teaching Assistant Program in France. Through a teaching position in France, I hope to promote my belief in foreign language acquisition, which is a necessary skill in an increasingly globalized world, and also to increase my own cultural knowledge of France and fluency in French. Moreover, my long-term academic goal is to apply to graduate school in art history on a Ph.D track; with this degree, I hope to become a museum curator. French is a key language in art history and critical in participating in the professional field of museums and curating. I hope that, by the end of my time at the university, I will be very fluent in French, with the goal of living and working in France in my future career.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
After an intensive six-week program in French at the Institut de Touraine, I hope to significantly improve all aspects of my French language skills, including speaking, listening comprehension, reading, and writing. More specifically, a few things I hope to achieve are to learn a lot of new vocabulary, understand nuances in the meaning of words, enhance my grammar skills, improve my speaking accent, and converse with natives about their way of life. Living with a host family will provide me with many opportunities to help realize my goals. Furthermore, I look forward to immersing myself in the local culture of Tours and, in a more general sense, becoming more fluent not only in the French language but also in French culture and customs.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will be able to hold a conversation in French with native speakers in everyday situations.
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will have a larger French vocabulary and I will understand the nuances of certain words.
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will have refined my skills in forming and employing French grammatical structures, both in writing and speaking.
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will have improved my pronunciation of the French language, through classroom instruction and practice and through listening and conversing with native speakers.
- At the end of my summer study abroad, I will have gained a greater understanding of political and social issues in France, French culture and customs, and the local culture and customs in Tours.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
During the months of June through August, which is when I will be attending class, the Institut’s entertainment coordinator plans daily social, cultural, and sport outings for after class. I will be attending all of the extracurricular outing opportunities offered, in order to explore the area and culture and practice the French language to become more fluent; these outings will also provide ways to meet other students as well as locals, with whom I can speak the language and, hopefully, keep in contact with after I leave. According to the information brochure distributed provided by the Institut de Touraine, it was established as a higher learning institution specializing in instructing French language and culture. Thousands of students come to the Institut every year with the explicit purpose of advancing their knowledge of the French language; this is an ideal atmosphere to practice speaking and to immerse myself in the language and culture, with the purpose of working towards fluency in French. I will also be staying with a host family, which will provide a key opportunity to practice French outside the classroom so that I can maximize my opportunities to speak the language and work towards fluency.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
I have finally arrived in Tours! Before arriving, I was very excited and anxious at the same time – I had a few difficulties getting in touch with the family and figuring out how to catch a train from Paris to Tours, but in the end all went smoothly. I am so thankful to have this opportunity – hearing French all around me upon arriving in Paris and on the train to Tours is making me look forward to arriving at the Institute tomorrow for my first day of class to begin my journey to become fluent in French! I’m hoping that by the end of my course, I will be able to navigate Tours and Paris (and all of France) by speaking entirely in French that is fluid and that natives can understand easily.
Tours is about 2 hours south of Paris by train, so getting here was fairly quick after arriving in Paris. My host family is absolutely wonderful – they are retired and have three sons, all of whom also have their own children, for a total of 9 grandchildren, some of who are coming to visit soon and whom I look forward to meeting. Both of my host parents are so nice and are very patient as I get used to hearing and speaking French. And they are also wonderful cooks – I am learning the tricks and secrets of French cuisine (in the French language!) which I am so thrilled about! Yesterday, my host mother showed me how to get to the Institut de Touraine – I just take the new tram to the center of town and walk down a street. It is absolutely beautiful here! The city buildings, houses, and streets are charming, and the weather is warm and temperate. Last night, my host parents invited a couple of their friends over last night to have dinner, and had wonderful conversation which I enjoyed listening to. I tried to participate as much as I could, although that was limited. Though I understood most of it, there were some phrases and words I did not understand – but they were very eager to correct my mistakes, teach me new words, and speak more slowly. I’m hoping that by the end of my stay I will be able to understand everything that said in a conversation, as well as the nuances of the words and the topics that natives converse about at dinner, and the topics that are avoided; I also hope to participate more thoroughly and more often in the conversations, with proper grammar, a fluid pace, and advanced words. With the help of my very gracious, understanding, and patient host family, as well as the excellent course provided at the Institut, I’m confident that I will make significant progress towards becoming fluent in French. I feel extremely welcome here, and I am very much looking forward to the next six weeks ahead of me.
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
Salut ! I have been here in Tours for a little over a week now. My first week of class was a one-week express course before I head into the 4-week monthly course next week; after that, I am doing another one-week express course. I am not exactly sure of the differences between the format structure of the two different kinds of courses, but I learned from students that the monthly course has phonetics labs, which I am very much looking forward to after hearing myself speak French for a week in comparison to hearing native speakers. I am realizing that distinguishing between the nasalized word endings and nasal vowel sounds is incredibly hard, especially when I try to say one thing and my professor thinks I’m saying another! For example, I was trying to say the word “soldes” but I pronounced that “o” in the word incorrectly, and my professor thought I was referring to something completely different because I didn’t nasalize the vowel sound correctly. The context was that this week, the summer “soldes”, or sales, started. In France, the soldes happen twice a year, once in the winter and once in the summer, and last for a little over a month. They started on Wednesday this past week, and downtown Tours was absolutely packed with people. It’s always busy on the main street, Rue Nacionale, but this day was particularly busy. My host mother says that the Saturday of the first week of the soldes is even busier. However, I wasn’t around Tours to experience the Saturday soldes rush as I was off exploring two chateaus in the Loire Valley! I went with Cailin as well as two other girls from my class, one from Ecuador and one from Switzerland, to see the chateau at Blois and another one at Chaumont-sur-Loire. They were both so beautiful! The chateau at Blois is more integrated into the town, as there are street roads and restaurants immediately surrounding it, while the one at Chaumont is more isolated from the town it’s in, surrounded by gorgeously kept gardens. Also inside Chaumont were art installations and exhibitions, including an exhibition entitled “Fleurs fantômes” (Phantom Flowers) by Gabriel Orozco, which was very exciting for me as I just learned about his photography work in my History of Photography class this past spring semester.
With regards to the class structure, the express course consists of daily grammar and vocabulary lessons, with a conversation component in the afternoons. I have already been exposed to so much new vocabulary, which has been helping my listening comprehension immensely as it is easier to recognize words when I’m speaking with my host family or watching French TV. One thing that I noticed, however, was my professor’s emphasis on distinguishing between familiar (spoken) words versus written words, as well as distinguishing between words with negative versus positive connotations. I realized that I had never focused on vocabulary words in terms of these distinction – when translating words from English to French or vice versa, I realized that some words had different nuances, but I am now learning to differentiate between words that are only spoken versus ones that are only written, and between words that are used with a negative or vulgar sense versus those with a more neutral or positive sense.
One reason that am loving being here in France, besides learning the French language, is because the food is absolutely amazing, especially because my host parents are such incredible cooks! This week, some of the stand-out dishes were a quiche Lorraine and a cherry tarte, and of course all of the cheese! I love cheese, but I don’t eat it that much when I am at home – for me, it is a special treat that I sometimes put on pasta or sandwiches, or that I eat as h’ors d’oeuvres at a dinner party. Here, however, my host family eats it every night, before dessert (usually a fruit or a small flan or mousse). They have a special cheese box that they keep in the refrigerator and take out every dinner; they only eat a small amount, but for me, this is more cheese than I am used to. I also find that they buy cheese both from local markets and from the grocery store, and there seem to be more high-quality brands and more types of cheese available at the grocery store than there are in the states. In class, the students in my class echoed my reflection on the vast assortment of cheese and daily cheese routine that is novel for us in France. Then, my professor made a comment about how her family doesn’t eat that much cheese, so she wasn’t educated about all of the different types of French cheeses when she was growing up. After she said that, I noticed that my host family was making a particular point to buy new types of cheeses every time they went to the market or the store, encouraging me to try them and telling me about them in order to familiarize me with them, which I appreciate immensely. My favorite so far is the chèvre, or goat cheese, which is a specialty of the region.
Overall, I have already learned a lot about French culture and cuisine, and I am finding my French is improving already after one week, especially in my listening comprehension. I am looking forward to joining the monthly course class this upcoming week!
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
Bonjour, tout le monde ! It is the end of my second week here in Tours…and it has flown by even faster than the first week. This week there was the start of a “canicule”, which is the word for a heat wave. I asked my host family if they happen every year, and they said that no, it only happens every few years. My host parents explained that there were two bad canicules in recent history, one in 2003 and one in 2012…so lately I have been drinking a lot of water and searching out air conditioning (which is not very common)! One thing that was also a point of conversation for me amongst other American students was how fewer places in France have air conditioning, while A/C is considered standard in the United States. Here in Tours, my host family explained that the weather is very temperate, so other than the canicules, I can see why A/C would not be necessary. However, other Americans from warmer places than my home of the Northeast explained that even in more warm and temperate places in the States, they have A/C. However, for example, my host family’s apartment is brand-new and doesn’t have A/C…they just open up the windows and doors to let air circulate. This is just a small cultural difference, one of many that I have realized as I navigate my opportunity to live in France.
This past week, I started the monthly course, and it is slightly different than the express course because we have certain time blocks set with two different professors, one for oral comprehension and speaking, and one for reading and writing, as well as a choice of additional classes that we can choose from, of which I chose a contemporary France culture class and a French literature class. So far, I’m finding the speaking classes and the phonetics classes the most helpful. I am noticing that I am progressing faster in reading and writing, but my speaking is progressing at a less rapid pace than all other areas of my French. In our speaking workshop, we have various activities. This week, we introduced ourselves in one class, and in another class we went around speaking about the new things we have discovered about French culture. Next week we are having a debate…the topic hasn’t been decided yet, but I am excited to see how it turns out…more on that to come in the next post!
Another thing that I forgot to mention in my previous posts was the celebration of la Fête de la musique, which happens in France every year on the day of the summer solstice! This year, it was last Sunday, June 21. In cities and towns all over France there are free concerts and bands playing…in Tours it was very exciting…the whole city seemed to be downtown, and there were all different types of musique playing in different pockets of the city, including jazz, salsa, hip hop, and a choir. There were many food trucks and lots of people dancing.
My host family continues to cook wonderful dishes and introduce me to different types of cheeses. One of my favorite things is learning the French translation of dishes that we make in the U.S…. One night, my host mother asked me if I had ever had “pain perdu”, which literally translates to “lost bread”. I wasn’t sure, so I asked her what it was. She explained the recipe…and it was exactly the recipe for what we call French toast in the U.S.! I said that yes, I had had it before, and taught her what we call it in the States…she got a kick out of the term “French toast”, and likewise I think the term “pain perdu” is perfectly fitting for the recipe. My host father then explained that it was a recipe that arose from the concept that nothing should go to waste, especially good bread that is slightly hard because it’s a couple days old. One of the first things I noted while here is that people really do buy their “pain quotidien,” or “daily bread”. My host family buys at least one fresh baguette every day, and on my way home from the institute, I see many people carrying baguettes to bring to dinner. By the way…the bread here really is fantastic! Overall, I am thrilled with my progress in French so far, and I’m loving my time here in France! À bientôt !
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
Salut ! Today marks the end of my third week here, and the end of my second week in the express course. In my last post, I promised to talk about the debate we had in class this week…overall it went well! Our topic was the question, “What is art?” The debate centered around Marcel Duchamp’s ready-made artwork, Fontaine, or Fountain in English. One side took the stance that it was not art, and the other side took the stance that it was art. I was placed on the former side (not art), which challenged me for two reasons: first, it is not my personal opinion, so I had to think of reasons that went against my opinion; and second, it was difficult for me (and for most of the other students) to express my more complicated points in French, but it was a welcome challenge to help me form more complex sentences more spontaneously. Each student was obligated to speak at least once, which was good because it challenged me to speak more often. At the end of the debate, there was no winner, but both sides expressed their points clearly. The professor admitted that perhaps it was a difficult topic for our level of class, but she expressed that she was impressed with us nonetheless.
While here, I have become aware of the DELF and DALF tests, which are tests at different levels to measure French proficiency, and which the courses at the Institut are structured around. Essentially, there are four parts: reading comprehension; oral comprehension; written production; and oral production. That is also the class breakdown of the monthly courses, and I find it helpful in the monthly course that the different aspects are broken down and worked on specifically. However, I have also noticed a wide discrepancy of skills in the class, and I have talked about it with my classmates and with students from other classes. While some students in my class speak very fluidly, with very good pronunciation, most students, like me, still find spoken production the more difficult aspect; however, those students in my class who speak fluidly say that they struggle with writing and reading French, while I find that I am more fluent in those areas. It is interesting to see how language acquisition is learned and how there can be fluency in some aspects of the language, like reading, while other aspects of the language, like speaking, come more slowly.
Dinner is the time when I get the most practice with speaking. I always have a small discussion with my host parents; sometimes it is longer, sometimes shorter, but I always learn something new, whether it is about cheese or current events. We started discussing attitudes of different countries towards the U.S., and my host father explained that in his opinion, the U.S. is the “grand frère”, or “big brother” of French, and more so Western European, culture. He explains that frequently, American movies or TV shows are translated into French and aired on French TV, and many shows are based off versions of American TV series; and, he also hears a lot of American music. I, too, have noticed these phenomenons, but it was interesting to hear my host father say the same. We also discussed the Fourth of July in America, and he mentioned that even the political system in France is similar to the American government, and was established after that of the U.S. We also briefly discussed foreign attitudes towards the U.S. in class, and a student from Belgium echoed the same sentiments, saying that she often listens to a lot of American music, even though she sometimes can’t make out all of the words in English due to accents or fast-paced singing, like in rap.
Moreover, in daily interactions, I am finding that my French is making progress. This past weekend, I was on the train to Paris, and I was able to understand, over the fuzzy intercom, most what the conductors were saying, which was a contrast to my initial train ride in to Tours, in which I could barely make out a few words. At one stop, an American family got on and stood next to me (it was very crowded, Paris is a popular destination!) and after the intercom voiced, they asked aloud what it had said. I was able to translate and tell them the important points that had been said. I found this moment to be a good indication of the progress that my listening comprehension has improved! Overall, I am enjoying being in Tours and I am loving all of the experiences here, especially learning about French culture as well as the cultures of other students in my class. I am looking forward to seeing what the next week brings! Ciao !
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
Bonjour, mes amis ! I have just finished my fourth week here, and my third week in the monthly course…which means I have one more week to go in the monthly course, then one more week of the express course. Overall, I am very happy with the progress I have been making. The phonetics classes have been very helpful; this past week we worked on nasal sounds, which was very difficult but very helpful. I still have trouble distinguishing between some words in which the nasal sound makes all the difference, such as “vin” (wine) and “vent” (wind), as well as trouble pronouncing it, but of course the context of the sentence aids the understanding of the words. I find that I am able to pronounce things well when I am reading French aloud, but the pronunciation of my spontaneous conversations and daily interactions can be a challenge as I am thinking of the words to say while also thinking about how to pronounce them. Sometimes daily interactions can be frustrating, but sometimes, there are moments that boost my confidence. I notice that if I speak simple sentences (while shopping, ordering food, or answering questions from my host family), I am well understood. Some of the friends and family members of my host family have commented that I speak French well, but I noticed that this comment only comes if I speak in simple, direct sentences. However, at discussions with my family at dinner, I usually find that I try to translate my thoughts from English into French for more complex sentences; but, for daily interactions and more simple sentences, I find that the French comes easily and without having to translate. Amongst these challenges, one milestone I noticed is that sometimes, I find myself thinking in French!
This past week, on July 14, France celebrated Bastille Day! Downtown, there was a lot of celebration, including a parade, food trucks, and a Ferris wheel, and at night, dancing and fireworks. I watched the fireworks (set off from a point along the Loire River, which traverses Tours) from my the roof terrace of our host family’s apartment while I discussed the celebrations on Bastille Day with my host mother. She said that in Paris, there is a large military parade along the Champs-Élysées, and at night, there dancing everywhere, and the fireworks are launched from Trocadéro. In class, we also had a discussion of Bastille Day in France in comparison to other national celebrations, including the Fourth of July, as well as others in Japan and Belgium. Another American in my class pointed out that in the U.S., the day tends to be more about going to a party, the beach, or the pool, with the main event being fireworks at night, while they noticed that in France, it was more about the downtown festivities as well as the fireworks. While most of the students in my monthly class right now are Americans, it was interesting to hear the students from Japan, Taiwan, China, and Canada talk about their national celebrations. For example, the student from Japan said that their national holiday is National Foundation Day, celebrated on February 11, but she said that there are no extravagant celebrations like there is in France.
Moreover, in very exciting news, this weekend, Cailin and I traveled to Strasbourg! We also met up with our friend, Delia, who we met in my first two weeks here and who lives in Switzerland – for her it was only about 2 hours by train. Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region in France, which is right next to Germany. It is an interesting town because it was passed between French and German rule. Everyone I encountered there (who worked there) spoke both French and German, and most people also spoke English. We took a river boat tour around the city with a guided headphone narrator, which was very tourist-y but very interesting! I also noticed that there were a lot of German tourists, and Delia, whose main language is German, was able to translate for us. What I found interesting was how well Delia spoke so many languages – she also speaks Italian, English, French, and a little bit of Dutch! She said that in Switzerland, it is very common to speak more than one language, and at least 2 or 3, because there are four national languages, and all of the street signs, food packaging, etc. is usually written in all four. Additionally, another thing I found interesting in Strasbourg was the traditional food – it was heavily influenced by German cuisine. Traditional dishes include choucroute (sauerkraut), baeckeoffe, and tarte flambées. When we went into the bakeries, I noticed that alongside the traditional croissants and baguettes, there was also stollen bread rolls, which are traditionally German as well. One night at dinner, we went to a restaurant that specializes in making baeckeoffe. We learned some of the history behind it (en français, bien sûr!), which is traditionally Alsatian. It is a mix of three different kinds of meat with potatoes and other vegetables, which would be prepared by the housewives for their husbands on Mondays, the day when they would do the laundry. The dish would slowly cook throughout the day so that they had dinner prepared at night. I was eager to try the spaetzle – which is also a traditional Alsatian and German dish. It was at almost every restaurant, and it was so good!
France has been absolutely wonderful so far. I’m very happy with my progress in the language so far, and I’m looking forward to what the next two weeks bring! À plus tard !
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
Salut ! Today marks the start of my last week here in Tours. I was thinking about all the things I miss back home (Chipotle; my cats), but I also realized that there will be lots of things that I miss here in Tours. I’ll miss the fresh baguettes every day, all of the crêperies, hearing French around me every day, and the ease of getting around by public transportation in Tours and by train throughout France. But alas, I still have one week left!
This past week, I have noticed that I’m able to form longer sentences when speaking with my host family and that I’ve been able to make myself more clear when speaking for longer times. That has been an accomplishment, as I have found speaking French to be one of the hardest aspects of the language. Additionally, while watching the local news, I find that I am easily able to follow along with the weather report without having to translate into English in my head, and that I’m also able to follow news stories and television programs with ease, even if I don’t know the definition of every word that they’re saying. To help with my reading comprehension, I’ve also picked up a “bande dessinée”, or comic book, called L’Arab du Futur by Riad Sattouf. Bande dessinées are very popular in France, and in every book store there is a large section with all different kinds. I love reading the one I picked up because first, the illustrations hint at the meaning behind words I might not know, so I’m learning a lot of new vocabulary; and also, the book uses a lot of slang words and spoken dialect – the words spoken by the characters are not necessarily written in grammatically correct French, but rather in the phonetic way it is spoken in every day. This has been immensely helpful. It’s been difficult to understand native speakers when they drop words or string words together, and that has been one of the challenges that I have been working through in understanding people on the street or in restaurants. I also realized that there is a rhythm to follow not just when others speak, but also when I speak – when I don’t say a word or even a sentence with the correct rhythm or emphasis on syllables, I can often be misunderstood. This nuance of language and being understood is fascinating to me, and being in France has helped me work through the rhythm of the daily language of native speakers.
Occasionally, we will discuss slang words and daily speaking patterns in class. For example, one time we briefly discussed various slang words and swear words, which I won’t post here, and which we were of course discouraged to use, but, were very helpful to know when I heard my host parents speak or people on the street speak. It is easy to glance over words that you don’t know in order to get the gist of a sentence, but knowing the small swear word and slang word interjections has been very helpful to get the more exact meanings of sentences. One small section of our vocabulary focused on a review of the nuances of the family unit and daily life; we discussed that “mon mec” means “my guy”, and “ma meuf” means “my girl” in familiar, spoken French. The professor noted, however, that these words are never written. She’s a young woman, and said that among her friends, these words are more popular than “mon copain” or “mon petit ami” to say “my boyfriend”, and “ma copine” or “ma petite amie” for “my girlfriend”. However, when I spoke to my host parents and a couple of their friends (all of whom are older and retired), they said that they use the phrase “petit(e) ami(e)” to refer to boyfriends and girlfriends. I thought this was an interesting generational difference in terms of slang word use.
Also, another amazing part about being in Tours, and in the Loire Valley, is the proximity of many gorgeous and old châteaus. So far, I’ve been to the châteaus at Blois, Amboise, and Chaumont-sur-Loire. This past Wednesday, Cailin and I went to Chenonceau, the second-most visited chateau in France after Versailles, and my favorite so far. It was absolutely gorgeous; it has a bridge that spans the River Cher, which Catherine de Medici built to host parties. One common theme among the chateaus is that Catherine de Medici seemed to have a room in all of the ones I visited; she really was powerful. And, at many of the châteaus, there are impeccably maintained gardens. Learning about the history of the châteaus, with all their additions and the history of the kings that lived in them and the events and meetings they held there, has been fantastic, and standing in the same room where prominent historical figures once were can be a little surreal. I’ve definitely been inspired with some decorating ideas for my future château…(just kidding!)
So, I have one week left here in Tours. This last week is an express course, which I’m looking forward to as the structure is more flexible and we can sometimes suggest grammar or vocabulary topics to work on. I will definitely be filling this week with lots of new vocab, French conversation, and crêpes!
Reflective Journal Entry 7
My last week of classes here in France was absolutely incredible! I took one more week of the express course, and the professors assigned to me this week were the best that I’d had all summer. In our discussion class, we talked about verlan, which is a form of slang in which words are reversed or jumbled up. It’s tricky to determine what a word means when written in this form, especially when it is written in shorthand texting language, which we worked on one day. We also practiced speaking in slang and verlan, and by the end of the exercise I noticed how easy it is to incorporate such words while speaking; I also noticed how common such words were in daily speech and in modern television programs. In our grammar and vocabulary class, we focused a lot on regional dialects and regional vocabulary, especially on that in Marseilles, which is where my professor is originally from. We watched some videos, and I noticed that I am now able to decipher different accents in French, which I couldn’t do before.
It was very sad to say goodbye to my host family, but I promised to keep in touch with them. They noted how much my French had improved in both understanding them and in my speaking, which I was very happy to hear! This weekend, before I leave for home, I’ve decided to stay in Paris for a few days. While interacting with shopkeepers and others, I noticed that my French was understood and that Parisians would talk back to me in French instead of in English, unlike the time I was there earlier this summer – one woman even commented that my French was very good, even as I spoke more intricate sentences! I took this all as a definite sign of progress. Also, in a cab that I took in Paris the other day, I realized that the cab driver was speaking with a foreign accent, which I took as another sign of progress in my understanding and usage of daily French.
I am incredibly grateful for this experience in France – I had a wonderful summer, and my French improved greatly in all areas of the language. Thank you to everyone who made my trip possible!
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
During my time in France, I gained many insights into the language acquisition process. I learned that some areas of the language (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) progress faster than others, depending on the person and their learning history, and I also learned effective ways to improve each area. Personally, speaking spontaneously is still the hardest challenge for me, but I feel that I improved immensely during my stay abroad. To engage and understand cultural differences, I made sure to have nightly conversations with my host parents at dinner, and I also asked my professors questions about cultural norms and differences. I felt that I did meet the goals that I stated before traveling, especially in the areas of learning nuances of words, holding a conversation with a native speaker in everyday situations, and gaining a greater understanding of French culture and customs.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
I have brought back a number of insights as a result of my experience in France. First of all, I learned about the common French words, interjections, non-word fillers, and slang words that are used in France. Additionally, I am able to detect certain regional and foreign accents when someone is speaking French. I also learned how to better understand a native speaker at a fast pace. Furthermore, I now have a better understanding of French culture, such as traditional dishes, meal time customs, manners, and history. By having the opportunity to spend an extended amount of time abroad, my world view has expanded immensely. I have learned about French attitudes towards the United States, French attitudes towards France’s culture and government, and the essential manners a foreigner must adopt while living in France. To someone else who was considering or preparing for summer language study abroad, I would advise them to make as much out of the opportunity as possible; some more specific tips I would give would be to eat local foods and dishes, go into stores and speak with store owners (even if you don’t buy anything), and definitely stay with a host family.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
With my newfound language skills, I intend to finish the French supplementary major at Notre Dame, as well as to continue taking classes independently after I graduate, in order to keep practicing and working towards fluency. I also hope to travel to France again as often as possible. Additionally, with my gain in intercultural competency, I hope to engage in my schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and everyday interactions with a more globalized outlook. I also plan to continue to study French culture and other cultures primed with the tools to understand cultural differences. Post-graduation, I hope to go on to graduate school for art history, a degree for which the knowledge of at least two foreign languages is required for graduation, and in which French will be an invaluable tool to understanding the subject, and the world, better. I also hope to maintain my French skills to travel to France and other French-speaking countries to further expand my worldview, and I also hope to work abroad one day, so that I can further immerse myself in the French culture.