November 14, 2017
It's now Autumn, and I want to make sure I don't want to forget to tell you about my time in Montreal at the end of this summer. I saved up my vacation days this year to spend all of last week with my work emails and calendar on beach mode. With that set, I ventured to Montreal and New York City on the other coast.
After reaping only 2 hours of sleep because of my red-eye flight to Montreal, I wandered down the streets of Mile End on a bleary Saturday morning. My AirBnb apartment was not ready, so I could not yet nap. My friends from Boston and New York hadn't arrived, so I was in my own company.
When Carlos and Celine arrived, the three of us wandered – back and forth snaking through Mile End, up and down Viator, roaming in and out of boutiques and book stores and cafes and anything that would captivate the attention of three American 20-something urbanite tourists.
A few months ago, I decided to study and practice French again. These urges occur sporadically when I least expect it. The first was back at Wesleyan, where I decided to enroll in a French language course again even after faltering badly in my high school's AP French course. It had been time for reparations.
The second time was after graduating from college and going through that hazy time where I both felt certain and uncertain of who I was and what I wanted. I was tired of crying all of the time and being by myself, and I somehow found solace through learning French again with my French conversation partner and new friend.
Now was the third time.
What is it about holding my mouth open for throttled words to jump out that is so appealing? To toll along the embarrassing vulnerability of trying so hard, only to get blank stares in return? Pourquoi?
Practicing French is similar to practicing my art. As much as I try to imagine goal posts to reach, there really is no clear endpoint in which I think I've met my goals. An artist practices their art… so a French speaker practices their French, is that true? When people say that they're fluent in a language, what do they mean? What is fluency, anyway? The ability to conjugate the 200 most common verbs in a language, across all of its tenses? The ability to be able to pick up cultural humor and slang across the idioms and puns that exist? The ability to read and write academic journals in that foreign language?
Je ne sais pas. I know I love practicing French because I'm stubborn and like challenges. I will seize opportunities where I can expand my worldview. And I think this world needs this worldview more than ever now as well.