How to learn a language while on erasmus

All you need to do, is make sure English is not your native language.  And no matter where you do your erasmus, you will probably learn a lot of English.  Plus whatever the local language is, assuming it’s not English.  Two for the price of one.  Did I mention you’ll learn English?

What I’m trying to say is, it’s extremely difficult for native English speakers to learn other languages because it seems like everyone studies English and knows enough for conversation.  In fact, more often than not, they’ll know it better than the local language when on erasmus.

In other words, I’m blaming my lack of progression with French on what I’ve just said above.

In other words, being a native English speaker is fantastic (you’ll almost always be able to find other English-speakers no matter where you go) – unless you want to learn a language.

In other words, I’d really like to learn some French.

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11 things that happen if you don’t have internet for 2 days

Oh look – a listicle.  List article.  List.  Whatever you want to call it.  Similar in design to many of those non-news stories which may pop up on your Facebook homepage if you’re unfortunate enough to use the slightly soul-destroying social media site.  (I haven’t managed to delete mine yet (if that’s even technically possible), but I have used it less over the last while, so that’s a start.)

So…  Here’s a super informative list of what happens (in my experience) if you don’t have internet for over two whole days.  Obviously, being a listicle, this contains unique and very wise insider knowledge that you just could not function or survive without:

1.  You socialise.

2.  You make friends.

3.  You exercise.  (I actually went for a run.  And it wasn’t even to a wifi hotspot.)

4.  You go exploring (especially if you’ve just moved to a new area, like I have, and need to find your way around).

5.  You go shopping.  (Proper, real life shopping, not online shopping.)

6.  You get enough sleep.

7.  You get into a good sleeping pattern.

8.  You meet up with people when you say you were going to meet up with them because you can’t contact them to say you might be late (taking a fully functioning phone out of the question because I’m abroad and haven’t got a sim card that works here yet).

9.  You go outside.

10.  You tidy, and in my case, unpack (in reverse order).

11.  You clean.

What?!  You do actual things?!?  Talk to actual people?!?!  Madness!!

I was right to be terrified about erasmus…

It turns out my fear was justifiable.  I’ve spoken almost entirely in English so far (I got here yesterday).  It’s a nightmare.  I need to avoid it, but can’t.  Maybe after orientation and all that I’ll be able to settle in properly and actually speak French as much as I’d like to.

So far, it’s been nowhere near enough – an occasional question or encounter with university staff or shop assistants, but basically nothing else.  Which has made me realise that my French is terrible now.  I can barely ask basic things, and attempting to hold a conversation just fries my brain.  I keep speaking Spanish by accident (things like ‘bueno’ and ‘gracías’, mainly, as well as normally saying ‘y’ instead of ‘et’).  I hope that doesn’t last.

I don’t want to forget my Spanish or the tiny bit of an Argentinian accent I may have picked up when saying certain phrases, but I don’t want to keep letting Spanish get in the way of learning French.  Quel cauchmar.

My pronunciation is terrible too.  I just don’t remember how you’re supposed to pronounce things in French  – vowels, the letters ‘c’ and ‘j’, and even where to put the emphasis in a word.

Basic vocabulary too, grammar – you name it, I’ve probably forgotten it.

Everything is really expensive as well.  So that’s awful.

On a happier note, it’s quite sunny.

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 don’t always go out, but when I do…

I plan on going out on a certain night a few days beforehand, and know where I’m going.

I leave it until really late to see who else I know is actually going into town or wherever, no matter how long I’ve known I’m probably going to go out.

I decide, maybe an hour or two before I should be leaving, that I’m not that bothered about going out after all.

I then get a text or two about going out, and one saying “we’re leaving in 20 minutes, do you want a lift?”

Then, and only then, do I decide I’m definitely going out.

Once this momentous decision is made, it’s followed by approximately 5 minutes of running around looking for clothes that hopefully aren’t out for the wash or hanging out on the line, 10 minutes of frantically searching for my hairbrush, and 5 minutes of attempting to straighten or just calm my hair a bit. That’s more or less it, give or take a couple of minutes.

My life would be far easier if I just gave myself an hour or so to get ready, but of course I opt for the hectic 20 minutes of running around looking for clothes, shoes, the straightener, and my ever-elusive hairbrush.

Basically, don’t do any of that the next time you go on a night out!

Stay classy,
Sarah