To introduce myself – I am Eloisa, a quadrilingual BA Modern Languages student going into my final year of undergrad.
I’ve always loved languages – from asking for the bill on holiday in Spain at the age of 5, to having spent this last academic year working at a Forbes top 50 legal translation firm in Milan. My issue however, is my confidence in my French. I’ve never spent time in France, aside from one school trip to Paris where we mainly spoke English! I’ve never viewed myself really as a French speaker – more as a person who can read and understand it quite well, but my spontaneous production of the language has always felt weaker.
Going into my final year of university I knew that I needed to fix this, as I didn’t want my spoken French to impact my total degree result. When I got the email about the summer opportunities fund, I knew this was my chance to throw myself in the deep end and force myself out of my comfort zone and speak French non stop for 2 weeks.
I found an intensive French course at the University of Nantes, with topics focussing on food and French history – two things that interest me. Thanks to the opportunities fund, I could afford to travel to Nantes and spend two weeks learning about things that interested me in a language that I knew I needed to improve.
The course consisted of 20 hours a week of intensive French classes, as well as two trips per week. Each day we had two classes – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Separated by an hour and a half break. The classes focused on grammatical, cultural and oral skills, often focusing around the trips that we had been on that week. The trips included a vineyard, cheese tasting, a chronography museum and a river cruise!
I was the only British student on the programme, with other participants coming from Spain, Ukraine, Latin America, China and Poland. This was wonderful because not everyone spoke English, so our common language was French! I actually spent more time speaking French with my new friends than I did in class, and it felt much more natural and relaxed than speaking in front of the class! I’m still in contact with a lot of the people I met out there, and we speak French when we communicate!
Overall I would say if you find one of your languages is weaker than the others, throw yourself in the deep end and force yourself to speak it. It’s the only way to improve, you have to get things wrong in order to succeed!