Despite the fact that I’ve now lived in its country for seven months of my own free will, I’ve never exactly been a cheerleader for the French language. Honestly, I’ve always just thought of my French degree as an extension to my Mass Communication one since it enables me to communicate a little more massively (haha). I’m certainly no linguist, I’m lackadaisical about grammar (but who uses the subjunctive, really?), and I’m not in possession of a musical ear or whatever it is those adept at languages have. Becoming more proficient in another language was just a bonus to my living abroad, not a passion or an out-and-out goal. Also, it seems that the more French I learn, the more convinced I become of the elusiveness of fluency. After all my schooling and speaking I have realized the following: I will never become fluent in the French language. I have neither the talent nor the drive to do so. And I am fine with this. Happy even.
Obviously, I couldn’t help but improve my vocabulary and speaking ability over the past seven months and for that I am both thankful and proud. But mainly, I’ve learned to just have fun with the language. I love getting the chance to cry out “mais si!” to contradict a negative statement. (Hypothetical example: while teaching Christmas to little French kids who tell you Santa doesn’t exist, one replies with “mais si!”) I also have to check myself from automatically repeating things I hear in line at the grocery store or in the teacher’s lounge. I like the sound of them. I mean, how fun is it to go “baaaaahhh, ouais” and have it (kind of) mean something?
The French also sprinkle their conversations with plenty of overused phrases. “Par contre,” “c’est normal,” and “tout à fait” are among my favs, meaning (more or less) “on the contrary,” “it’s no big deal,” and… I don’t really know to translate “tout à fait,” but it’s fun to say. I guess you use it where in English you’d say “exactly” or ”that’s it!” Other French phrases seemingly have no meaning and are harder to grasp. “C’est déjà pas mal ça” literally translates as “that is already not bad, that” and one uses it to express some sort of apathy or slight disappointment with a situation. A coworker explained “c’est déjà pas mal” to exist somewhere between what you expected to happen and the worst that could have happened. Oh, French! You see why I never expect to become fluent?
But despite its stupid nuances, there are some things about that French expresses or describes better. Like using penible for an annoying and difficult person or situation, which consequently is a word one gets to use often in France. Also, to tell someone that you miss them you say, “Tu me manques.” that literally means, “You are missing from me.” I find that kind of sweet. And I love the verb profiter. Not really having a regular English conversation equivalent (at least with my limited skills) it means to take the best advantage of a situation or really exploit or profit from an experience. I like to think that I’ve “profited” from my experience here and enjoyed progressing a bit with my language skills, even if I wasn’t necessarily trying to do so.