“Rigor” takes on a whole new meaning when applied to studying a language at the University of Michigan. Adhering to the 4-semester LSA language requirement, many students find themselves in a100- or 200-level course during their time at Michigan, especially during their first two years as undergraduate students.
Whether it be French, Italian, Chinese, Hindi or Polish, most of these 100- and 200- level courses are taught completely in the language of study.
Thus, the students of these courses can relate to feeling like they’ve been tossed into a pool completely clothed, because that’s what language-study is like at U of M – as if you’re a kitten in a sudsy bathtub, drowning in conjugations and vocabulary and an extremely hard-to-replicate accent.
For those wet kitties who are reading this now, I want you to know: you are not alone.
Just this semester, I walked into my first day of French 101, eager to learn but without a shred of prior French experience. Much to my terror, when the professor opened his mouth, all that came out was a bombardment of oui and voilà and a slew of other French words that made absolutely no sense to me. I floundered, resisted the urge to burst out laughing or crying, and tolerated the 30 minutes of French until he broke into English.
“Welcome to French 101,” my professor declared once his lesson for the day was complete.
The entire class took a collective sigh of relief, and all at once, my every worry was mitigated: we were all baffled, I thought to myself. Not just me, but the entire class.
And with that collective sigh, I realized that even though immersion is terrifying and intimidating beyond belief, I wasn’t the only one confused or overwhelmed.
And since this realization, I have come to class each day (4 days a week!!) with an optimistic and hopeful attitude, knowing that if I understand anything at all, it is a victory.
Because I did just begin French a month ago, and if I can say even one comprehensible sentence or noun or verb, I have learned something, and that my friends, is called progress.
So for all you beginners, you bold under-takers, do not be afraid! There is much progress to be made and mistakes to learn from, and in that there is simply no shame.
After all, life (and language) is about the journey – not the destination – is it not?