How many languages did you speak at age 22? For Domoina, Language Assistant at Gymglish, the answer is simple: five, going on six!
Since moving to France from Madagascar at age 6, she has continued to show an interest in learning new languages and new cultures. Today, we meet up with this language enthusiast.
Hello Domoina! You moved to France at the age of 6, could you tell us more about your French language journey?
I started learning French when I was 5 at the Alliance Française of Tananarive in Madagascar. 12 months later, I moved to France, in the Haute-Savoie region. I immediately started school and continued to learn French with the help of my classmates; I never felt I was different from them. I spoke French at school and my parents spoke to me in Malagasy at home (and I’m forever grateful!). Rules were crystal clear from the start and the transition went smoothly.
We lived in a cosmopolitan city. We were surrounded by Italians, English people, in other words, people for whom French was not their mother-tongue. We found this helped us integrate faster because we were all learning French together!
You also fell in love with English and Spanish?
In third grade, I started my first English lessons and I immediately fell in love with the language and how it sounded; it was sort of like love at first sight.
In high school, I went on my first school trip to England. Overnight, I was totally immersed in British culture as I was staying with a local family. Generally speaking, immersion has always been a very efficient way for me to learn languages. When I don’t have a choice, I tend to challenge myself and I realize that I learn much faster.
In 8th grade, I started learning Spanish and once again I fell in love with the language! One thing’s for sure: if you’re passionate about languages, you’re bound to learn how to speak them much faster.
In practical terms, I’ve never been a huge fan of grammar books, I prefer learning in a more fun way, watching YouTube videos or reading magazines for example. At the time, I used to jot down all the new words I learned in a notebook.
What happened after your Baccalaureat?
After passing my Baccalaureat (French high-school diploma), I started a Bachelor’s Degree in modern languages (“Langues Etrangères Appliquées”) and I studied English and Spanish as well as Russian. I chose to learn Russian because my parents studied and met in the former Soviet Union. When my brother and I were younger, they used to speak in Russian so we wouldn’t understand what they were saying. The language has always fascinated me, and I loved learning it for two years. My parents were a tremendous help in my learning journey, especially when it came to oral and written expression.
Did your college years help you learn languages in more depth?
Yes and that’s the problem! During my LEA studies, I learned languages in a more academic way and it put me off, even disheartened me at times. I sometimes felt I was wading through water. I decided to go on a language study program in England for a month to renew with the English language. While I was away, I met many Spanish-speaking students and I even learned some basic words in Japanese thanks to my roommate.
As soon as I moved back to France, I had an epiphany – I had to improve my level of Spanish. In order to do so, I went on an exchange program to Colombia (because I love the Colombian accent). During my stay, I easily adapted to the culture and the Colombian way of life. I felt at home there. In many respects, the country reminded me of Madagascar.
Do you have any new language projects in mind?
I lived in Colombia for a year and when I moved back to France, my level of French was quite strange, I often got words mixed up. Thankfully it only lasted a couple of months. Today, I’m currently finishing an apprenticeship at Gymglish and then I plan to improve my level of Russian and learn Japanese. My language journey is not about to stop anytime soon.
If you’re also passionate about learning languages, check out our current vacancies here.