It would be an understatement to say that Gymglish is a multicultural company.
Italian, British, American, German, Malagasy and French employees work alongside each other every day to create online courses that enhance student motivation and participation. As a native Spanish-speaker and content writer, that is precisely Laura’s role at Gymglish. She joined the team in July 2018 and mainly contributes to the creation of Hotel Borbollón, our soon-to-be-launched Spanish course.
Today, we look back on her French learning journey which started 6 years ago in her native country, Colombia.
Hello Laura! Did you start learning French during your school years?
Well, not really. In Colombia, many people speak English as a second language. In elementary school, high-school and even college, nobody spoke a word of French. When I joined the Academy of Dramatic Arts, I met a drama teacher from the Lycée Français of Cali, my hometown. We decided to create a small project together, and we would rehearse in the same lycée. My first encounter with the French language was quite an informal one, thanks to friends who opened their doors to the French-speaking community of Cali.
Within that community, I met someone to whom I got married to some years later. I didn’t plan on learning French at all, but I found love. Therefore, learning French became a priority – I desperately wanted to be able to communicate with his family, get to know more about French culture. When we decided to move to France, it dawned on me: I only had 6 months to learn French!
What a challenge that must have been! Which methods did you try during that time period?
I spend a huge amount of time reading grammar and spelling books, creating several conjugation lists, and making up quizzes and games to make learning more fun. I believe that learning a language is also about learning the culture behind the language. In order to decipher French, I watched a lot of movies, started creating playlists and discovered artists I still listen to and love today.
After 6 months, I understood a few words here and there, knew how to use a couple of verbs but I was still unable to hold a proper conversation.
So moving to France had a huge impact on your learning of French?
Exactly! I wanted to resume my studies but before that, I had to find a job – not so easy when you don’t speak the national language. I continued to teach myself French and thanks to my friends, I discovered yet another language: slang, “verlan” (backward slang), argot… so many words I’d never heard of before!
At the time I was under a lot of pressure because Paris has a very high cost of living. After having spent two months in France, I attended a job forum in Paris. I was very shy and only knew a couple of sentences such as “Je ne comprends pas” and “Pouvez-vous répéter lentement”. It was a very trying day but I managed to secure a position as a hostess on a cruise ship. Management was very strict, my colleagues were forbidden to speak to me in English or Spanish, everyone had to speak to me in French. It was intense but very useful.
From that moment on, everything went fast. French took precedence over English and all three languages were battling against each other. Luckily for me, that period was short-lived.
Would you say French is a difficult language to learn?
Not necessarily. Pronunciation was a real issue in my language learning process. I made sure to pronounce each word perfectly and I believe it was difficult for me to let go, to embrace the fact that I’d speak with an accent all my life.
As regards language learning as a whole, it’s important to accept that it takes time, and that you shouldn’t be afraid to speak. The important thing is to communicate, get a message across to people. It’s frustrating not knowing how to express yourself like you would do in your mother tongue, using all the nuances and subtleties of the language.
A few years ago, I enrolled in a Parisian university thanks to which I was able to improve my writing skills. I rediscovered words I didn’t know how to spell. My relationship with French has always been an intuitive one: hear, understand, repeat.
Here I am, six years later, and I speak French with much more confidence (Editor’s note: Laura is nearly bilingual!), I work in an international environment at Gymglish and I speak French and English on a daily basis. I strongly believe in self-learning. Motivation, participation and culture are the keys to learning foreign languages. I think it’s safe to say that French is my adoptive language.
If you too want to learn a foreign language like Laura, click here!