Rebecca is a second year majoring in Comparative American Studies and minoring in Environmental Studies.
I’ve been learning French since 1st grade. [In 1st grade] we were singing and dancing, saying poems. I like how it was ingrained in me, not trying to learn grammar, just internalizing [the language.] When I was younger, I didn’t like the way German sounded. I always like the way French sounded. I wanted to keep developing it because I had already started it. I was lucky to have it offered wherever I was, at the different high schools I went to.
What are your current plans with French?
Right now I am really trying to get better at speaking and understanding. I want to go abroad, during my time here at Oberlin, to a French speaking country. I want to make [the French language] something more than just a daily class, where I learn more than just the language.
I am not sure how beyond school I want to use it yet. I want to be able to have another language. Maybe meeting people, working, traveling, I just feel like it will open a lot of doors. But I think it will become more clear to me once I become more fluent. As I get better it is exciting because now I can see that I can learn about what I care about in French. I can see French taking me in directions where I can learn about real stuff.
What history do you have with languages that are not English? Did you hear any near where you grew up?
I feel like I didn’t grow up in much but English. But a really cool experience I had with language was when I went to Italy, we lived in a little village where no one spoke English. I really used my French to communicate, it was really really fun to try to find different ways to communicate. A lot of things are similar in Italian and French. Maybe not til I was older when I traveled did I experience more about that. In Spain I realized how little French translated to Spanish. My friend from Mexico oftentimes translated for me.
What challenges you learning a language in a classroom setting?
I think that the focus on the way that tests and stuff are made up don’t really seem to be helpful. They do not [necessarily] translate into you speaking and writing well. Filling in the blank etc. Why aren’t we being challenged to use the language right away? This shifts the emphasis on the technical stuff, memorization, in a way you aren’t even really engaging in learning.
What suggestions would you give French teachers?
If the goal is for us to be speaking and writing in French, make what we are doing be tested in a way that we are speaking or writing. It doesn’t have to be fill in the blank, let it be not so dumbed down.
What is your favorite medium of French (reading, writing, talking, listening?)
I do like listening to French music and just being able to talk to friends where all of a sudden you can transition to another language is fun and feels very freeing. In light of all the recent events in France, we can look at different news sources and get another perspective on the attacks because of the language. We can see another side of the media that doesn’t come through in English.
Who would you like to speak French with?
Right now what’s great about it is [talking with] friends, once I get better I won’t have to rely on peers and teachers to slow down. Maybe I will be able to [speak] with people [who are native speakers] and really listen to and understand [them.]
When do you feel fulfilled while learning French?
I feel fulfilled when learning French in the classroom is very supportive, a light fun atmosphere. Especially when we are still learning fundamental basics, sometimes it’s boring like you learned in 1st grade, but keeping it light and fun and supportive of each other. I feel like I am actually able to learn when my peers are supporting me. It’s not about being perfect right now, you are messing up all the time publically, oftentimes we don’t know how to deal with that, so some people become too afraid to talk. You have to get into the mindset that I am literally going to mess up the sentence even though I might have a good idea.
Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Janovic