Bonjour tout le monde! Ça fait longtemps que je parle en français... je crois qu'il fait presque trois ans que je suive un cours de français à l'université. Et bien, dernier soir, avec des filles trop gentilles, nous nous sommes toutes les trois mises dans notre salon et nous avons regardé le film, Les Misérables, en français avec des sous-titres en anglais. Et nous avons mangé des crêpes en parlant en français... Et bien, ce matin je suis en train de penser pourquoi je n'ai pas choisi de continuer à étudier le français.
Phew. That was hard. Here is my rough translation of what I hope my French actually says:
Hello everyone! It's been a long time since I spoke French... I think it's been almost three years since I took a course in French in college. And well, last night with these very nice girls, we were all three of us in our living room and we watched the movie Les Miserables, in French with English subtitles. And we ate crepes while speaking in French... and now this morning I am in the midst of thinking about why I didn't choose to continue studying French.
It's a weird question to ask - because when you go to college you choose to study one thing and forsake others. Everyone has to give up some of what they loved in high school to be successful in college - even more so when we get to grad school. I think at some point in my college career I've asked this same question of every other subject as well. Why did I give up calculus (a rarer question, but nonetheless present)? Why did I give up environmental science? Why did I give up history, literature, theater, voice - why did I let those things slip through my fingers and into the vague memories of high school and the occasional passionate conversation?
French is a little bit different, probably because language is a little bit different from other subjects. In high school French was offered to us, not only as our required language (everyone in my school learned French) but as a real means of expressing ourselves. French was a language for talking about weekend plans, family life, frustrating homework loads... and French was also the place of a new kind of poetry, theater, philosophy, culture, art...
I can't think of the language outside of how I came to express myself in it. In French I am more exuberant than in English. I gesture more with my hands (if that's possible) and I am more inclined to laugh at myself and at the words that come out of my mouth. It's a vigorous language - and I am more excited in it. I think of all of the stories that I can only really tell in French: the raw egg on my crepe at dinner in Angers, the Musee Rodin in Paris, the day all the cheese came tumbling out of loading boxes and onto my head in a Parisian grocery store, the moment with my French mother when I put the phone away and I should have turned off the light... and the stories from Waring of French movies watched in the Polygon with stolen couch cushions, the crazy Core kids of my Immersion Music Dance class and my Beginner I French class on Monday mornings (if any of you, par chance, read this blog, I am so grateful to you), the times when my friends and I would just say, "Bonjour ma petite."
Being in a new city, making home in a new culture and with new people has gotten me thinking about what French was and I hope still can be in my life. I want French to be a language of joy. I want French to be a place I inhabit, a part of me that emerges when English is insufficient or when French is simply more beautiful. Washington, DC has elements of it that are like this - strutting my stuff down Independence Ave where the House Office Buildings are and walking confidently from the Metro home, or practicing sign language on the street, or eating great BBQ or Mexican or Thai or Indian out with friends in the middle of the week.
I did not choose to continue studying French in college, and I did not choose to go to France for a study abroad program. But I hope that now, as I realize that I am still desperately in love with the French language and French culture, that I can keep it in my life. The title of this blog post is, "I am a young American girl, and I love France with my whole heart." How true that is.
Maybe if I read this every few days, and if enough people remind me, and make me practice, I will find myself slowly en train d'apprendre encore cette belle langue, et d'apprendre encore Hilary qui parle français, qui se trouve plus joyeuse, plus passionante, plus... Hilary.