Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pas parfait? That’s okay!

It’s been a week of mistakes chez mon tête et ma bouche.

I wish I could open my mouth and emit a stream of perfect French, wowing my friends and confusing my family.

What I find, though, is the more chances I take, the more mistakes I make.

One day I realized I’d made a ridiculous mistake in a Facebook post en francais—and it took me three tries to correct it properly.

Then, for the 20th time yesterday I told my friend I was on my way to get my horses cut, even though on paper I know the difference entre les cheveux et les chevaux* (but I still mix up my socks and mes chaussures in my head).

Sometimes, French amis offer me gentle correction, apologetically, assuring me that they can easily understand what I mean to say despite mes grosses erreurs.

I am so grateful for the aid, and I know that taking chances and making mistakes is important in learning anything new.

Sometimes, however, I feel certain my friends must be laughing inside. A couple of times this week I felt the dreaded "Mon dieu! I must sound so stupid to these people."

But like so many self-doubts, it’s self-talk that we brave learners must stamp out to continue making the brain connections that will lead us on a path to fluency—the logical goal to learning a language, in my estimation.

Every francophone I’ve encountered has been only too happy to help others learn and never made me feel bad about being less than perfect…cool, n’est-ce pas?

When I begin to worry about it, I try to remember that waiting for perfection never got anyone any closer to it.

Then, I remind myself of the motto of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which was first comprised of French engineers, and it’s my advice to my friends who are debutants, like myself:

(Let us try!)

*Image Clip art courtesy of

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