When I was little I was very keen to learn a new language, my dad is fluent in both French and German and encouraged me to learn by buying books with vocabulary and pictures. I enjoyed it but didn’t take it too seriously as it wasn’t something we did in primary school. When I started high school our year was split in half with some groups learning French and some learning German. My class were to learn French which I was pleased about. In the first two years I seemed to be doing quite well but we only learnt basic phrases such as how to introduce yourself and describe your family. It must have stuck though as I still remember most of those phrases now.
When I was in my third year my teacher decided that I was good at languages and that I should now study French and German. I didn’t get on with German at all and found it difficult learn, as a consequence I don’t remember anything from those classes now. At the end of the third year we had to pick which subjects we would carry on at GCSE, picking a language was compulsory so I chose to do French. On results day two years later I received an A which seems funny to me now as I don’t feel like I could have a conversation or write a letter in French. I was encouraged to take the language on at A level when I went to college but I decided not to as I knew I would have to read French novels and the thought of that scared me. Sometimes I feel like it might have been a risk worth taking.
Since school I have found it hard to learn languages. When I visit different countries I try to learn basic words like “hello” “please” and “thank you” but I always feel really silly and like I’m not pronouncing the words correctly. On the flip side of that when I visited Paris I ordered a sandwich at a little café in French and the lady serving then started talking to me rapidly, I didn’t understand at all and had to tell her I was English. That made me feel even sillier that I’d tried to communicate and got myself in a mess.
I am thankful that most people in other countries have a good grasp of English but I do sometimes think that we’re a lazy nation, especially now languages is falling away from the curriculum in some schools. If I had learnt languages at primary school I feel I would be a lot more confident speaking them as an adult. I have tried a couple of times to learn some Italian using an app as I have always wanted to visit Italy but I don’t feel like I absorbed much aside from a few words here and there. I went last year but again I found it difficult and felt silly trying to communicate. Everyone spoke so quickly I couldn’t follow a conversation. I felt lucky I had Italian people with me who could help me decipher menus and order food but felt bad that they had to constantly communicate with me in English.
I don’t think I am a natural linguist and would find it hard if I had to live abroad but I hope that one day I can pick up languages again.