Misery (and Curiosity) Loves Company

As an architecture school alum — aka survivor of several #architorturous, all-consuming studio courses — I can tell you, I couldn’t have made it through without compatriots, a dozen fellow archies who’d blast 90s hip hop, eat junk food, shed actual blood, sweat, and tears together.

In this language-learning endeavor of mine, at least in its current stage, I’m quite alone. It’s just me and the Internet, plus some French books I’ve acquired over the years. More recently through this blog, I’ve been able to open up more and find other people on similar language journeys. (Hello Ruth/talk foreign to me!)

One person who’s been super open about his language learning progress (and thoughts about life and the world in general) is Ta-Nehisi Coates, a writer for The Atlantic and former professor of mine at MIT. I’m really glad The Atlantic has been so supportive of his French-learning journey. This past summer, TNC attended a 7-week French immersion program at Middlebury College.

The Atlantic video team shot this video of him before the program. Here, TNC is interviewed in French…and I just freakin’ love the whole thing. One of my biggest struggles is speaking French confidently (or let’s be real, speaking French out loud at all)…knowing how many mistakes I would make. In the video, TNC stumbles and all but he answered all the questions! and agreed to appear on film! to be seen and heard by thousands of readers! That’s just so inspiring to me.

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Ok, tried a long time but could not embed the video, so you’ll just have to trust me and click here to watch it.

Here he is again, after the seven weeks.

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watch here

Upon emerging back into the English world, he also wrote a thoughtful essay on the immersion experience and what he learned about learning.

I particularly liked this bit, because it’s a rather familiar feeling…

And there were the latest developments, the likes of which I perceived faintly through the French media. I had some vague sense that King James had done something grand, that the police were killing black men over cigarette sales, that a passenger plane had been shot out the sky, and that powerful people in the world still believed that great problems could be ultimately solved with great armaments. In sum, I knew that very little had changed. And I knew this even with my feeble French eyes, which turned the news of the world into an exercise in impressionism. Everything felt distorted. I understood that things were happening out there, but their size and scope mostly eluded me.

For me, if news written in French is impressionism, then that in Korean would be much more abstract.

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2 thoughts on “Misery (and Curiosity) Loves Company

  1. Hi, Jenny! I love that you mentioned me on your blog, it makes me feel less alone, too! You should check out conversation Meetups in your area – they are such a good reminder that language learners all sound silly but we’re all in it together. 🙂

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