As an Expat who moved to France more than 9 years ago you would have thought that by now my level of French would be pretty damn good. Maybe not fluent, but a level where one does not have to rehearse what to say each time they have to make a phone call, or where it doesn’t take five times longer to write an email in French than in English, or where a long evening dinner with French neighbours is not one massive exhaustion for the brain. Well I’m being very honest and have to admit that I’m still doing all of the above and it does take a lot of effort!
“Just dive right in!”
When I moved to South-West France from the UK someone advised me that the best way to learn French is to just dive right in. Immerse yourself in the language 24/7, read magazines in French, watch telly in French, listen to radio in French, get some work with French people and get to know your neighbours on a regular basis. Did I follow that advice? no! why? well that felt like too much hard work. I had a toddler and a three month old baby, lived in a mobile home whilst my partner was building the house. A new country, a young family and no friends…I decided I will try my best with French and I will learn, but I will give myself time to do it… I want to enjoy telly for goodness sake!
One year on…
I was pretty fortunate to find some other Expat mums after just a year of being here and as my house was becoming less of a mud bath and building site, and more like the house we had designed from a kellogg’s cornflakes packet I started to become more comfortable in my life in France. So how was my French coming along? asked my family back in Blighty. “Pas mal” I would say, but then I realised that I actually very rarely have to speak French. I now have English speaking friends, I’m a stay-at-home mum and if anything needs sorting in French I’ll just ask my partner to do it…after all he understands it better than I do. But then oldest son got older (like they do), school was round the corner, I would have to get some kind of understanding of the lingo. But hey, my son’s first friend at school has a mum who speaks fluent English. Fantastic! She could explain to me the school routine, the admin forms and translate for me at school meetings. Yet again, I’m backing away from any situation that involves me trying to speak or understand the language. And the thing is, the more I avoided it, the more difficult it was to be in a ‘french’ situation.
It wasn’t until I discovered the amazing technique of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) aka ‘Tapping’ that I realised that there was quite a lot of anxiety and fear behind my aversion to conversing in French, it wasn’t just about not being very good at learning languages.
I trained up as a Practitioner in EFT and this last year I have worked with several people regarding their struggles with a new language. I could see that there were some common aspects. The fear of looking stupid, is a big one. Some of us may perceive an onlooker (your child’s school teacher, your elderly neighbour, or shopkeeper etc) as negatively viewing our language ability, thus in turn, perceiving us as intellectually flawed and not worthy. A certain expression of the face (eyebrows frowned or a blank “uh?”) may remind you (though not necessarily consciously) of a time in childhood when you got something wrong or didn’t understand something and was maybe mocked by fellow class mates or ridiculed by the teacher. If an embarrassing moment took place when you were young and you were unable to deal with or express the emotions felt at that time, then each time you are placed in similar circumstances the body will react in similar ways (a wave of heat, or a tightness in the throat, or a desire to vanish for example). Fortunately EFT can gently readdress previous stuck emotions by the process of tapping (with fingertips) on various acupressure points whilst tuning into the memory, physical sensations or feelings. Once these stuck emotions have been released one will find that those difficult circumstances no longer feel so difficult.
Just not good enough!
For some, there is also that feeling of just not being good enough. We may have friends who have learnt quicker over less time or find that we can’t help out with our child’s homework because it’s incomprehensible and then feel disappointed in ourselves. Yes its frustrating but it can often feel worse if we beat ourselves up about how we are not good enough. It can lower self-esteem and raise a distaste to this language which creates barriers in communication. Try to accept that it IS frustrating, that it IS hard, that you may not be learning as quickly as you would like and that your children are likely to overtake you on the language path. Perhaps you are just doing the best in your own circumstances.
They can’t see the real me!
Even after getting to grips with the basics some people find that social situations are highly stressful. It’s not just about understanding others or being understood but it’s about conversing in a way that shows the other person who you really are…your beautiful wholesome nature or your quirky sense of humour. There can often be a feeling of being small, not equal to the person you are communicating with and not expressing the ‘real’ you that those who share your native language do see. Back in your country of birth you may have been the chatty one in a group situation, or the one who made others laugh, but what happens when you become the only one in the group that doesn’t get the joke? (I’ve been there many times!) That feeling of not fitting in, or being rejected can again remind us (though not consciously) of a time in our youth where we didn’t ‘fit’ in with a certain group or were rejected one way or another. We all need security and we want approval from others to validate our existence. This is human nature and it IS okay to feel the way you feel.
Working through the struggles
For some, learning a language can be exciting, and making mistakes along the way is just part of the process. For others, the struggles lie deep, and those struggles need attention before that person feels it is even possible to learn or improve their language skills. Noticing what the struggles are is a good first step. Learning to accept the struggles and finding ways to overcome them, whether it be through EFT or by other stress and anxiety reducing techniques, is a healthy path to get you more at ease with the new language.
I have seen how the technique EFT has helped people with their French and in improving life generally. The main result being that….they are still not able to speak or understand that well BUT… they just don’t worry about it anymore!
When the struggles are less and you feel more able to learn and practice, it’s about finding the best approach to learning that suits you. Also, understand that it does take time, work and effort to learn a new skill, it is not going to happen by itself. I’m going with the method advised by Darren Hardy, publisher of SUCCESS magazine. In his book ‘The Compound Effect’ he states that “small, seemingly insignificant steps completed consistently over time will create a radical difference.” For example, if you learn one new noun, verb and adjective at the beginning of each week, make a sentence or two using these new words and say it out loud over and over so that by the end of the week you have it nailed. If you do this every week imagine the amount of new words and phrases you will have learnt within one year. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Thank you for reading and have a Beautiful Day!
For more information into how EFT could help your Good Health, and to book a Skype session please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Take a look at my facebook page which offers advice and support to those wanting to use the technique to maintain good health. https://www.facebook.com/melodylovell/