Why I’m terrified about going on erasmus

Yes, that does say “terrified”, you’re not hallucinating…

But erasmus sounds amazing? Yes, yes it does.

And didn’t you just spend five months living in Argentina? Yes, yes I did.

So then what’s the problem?!

My problem is, that the whole point of me going on erasmus, is to learn a language. Yes, that’s the point of most people going on erasmus, unless they study abroad, but in a place where their native language is also the local one. However, most people who speak English don’t learn as much on erasmus, well, as I’d like to. I’m not saying that they’re stupid and I’m aiming to learn much more because I’m clearly better than them. I’m not. They probably don’t want to learn a language as much as I do. Or, want to put their erasmus to what they think is better use – maybe by getting to know people from all over the world, and just enjoying the whole experience. And I don’t disagree with them at all. Both of those are hugely important to me too. You can’t just go on erasmus and be stuck in dictionaries and grammar books for the whole time you’re there. I have no intention of that. I just want to improve my French.

Unfortunately though, English is quite a universal language especially when it comes to Europe, and most students who do erasmus speak some English – therefore (and because many of them are native English speakers) it automatically becomes the language they speak with each other, rather than the local language, which they obviously have to know, or at least learn at some point, too. Often, the local language is their third language, and English their second, so it’s actually easier for them to speak English.

This is fantastic if your first language is not English – you can do one erasmus and improve hugely at two languages.

As a native English speaker though, I’m filled with dread at the thought of having to try so hard to avoid speaking English with others in France, if it will even be possible – I won’t be able to completely escape it, but I will speak it as little as possible. Basically, I’m setting myself up to have no friends on erasmus, because I will run a mile from all the lovely erasmus students who (quite harmlessly) dare to speak to me in English, and even the French ones who do the same. Erasmus students don’t generally mix that much with other students and it’s because of this that I’m scared about going on erasmus. I’d rather not have no friends, but I don’t want to only make friends with people who solely speak English to me. In France, I mean. Obviously at home that’s fairly tolerable.

I am a native English speaker, I swear!

I think this blog could be a good way of keeping track of my deteriorating English if (I mean when) I continue to post regularly. It’s already gotten quite bad just from spending five months in Argentina (yeah that’s a thing I did, I might write about it later…). Since I’ve gotten home there have been so many occasions where I literally couldn’t get across exactly what I was trying to say, couldn’t think of a particular word that I needed, or just directly translated phrases I’d learned in Spanish into English, which ends up sounding a bit weird because although they make sense, we don’t use those exact phrases.

That and actually speaking in Spanish accidentally a few times. Now I don’t mean blurting out whole sentences in Spanish, but a few phrases now and then, like “ay díos” or “¡díos mio!”* if something goes wrong, or annoys me, or “¿qué sé yo?”** pretty much if anyone asks me a question ever. It’s nice that I picked up these phrases, and remember them, but it would be handier if I didn’t use them when meant to be speaking English…

And then there’s the hand gestures. I’ve attempted to teach one or two to friends from home, and one even caught on for a while, but I’m not sure I’m going to succeed in making them a permanent part of Irish culture just yet. Sometimes I find myself doing them and almost have to grab my hand and lower it back down into a more regular, motionless state so I can converse like a normal Irish person again.

Now France is going to influence how I communicate too, and if I manage to avoid speaking English a lot there then my English will surely get even worse. I don’t want to be awful at English, but I like to think that if my English is getting bad then surely my other languages are improving, right? …But then I find words I don’t understand in other languages and look up their meanings only to find that they’re the same in English, and realise I may need to work on improving my English for once.

But I thought I was a native speaker?!

* = “oh god” or “my god!”
** = “what do I know?”