“T’inquiète pas”

In this blog task I will reflect about how I am coping with the foreign language in my host country. Since I am in Paris the language which is spoken at the university and in everyday situations is French.

In my view I am having a big advantage because I can already speak some French from school as well as from French courses I took at the university the last two semesters. That is why I am managing very well and have been able to improve my French a lot. I was also lucky enough to meet people who are either French or foreign students who already speak some French. For this reason, I can speak very well with my colleagues in French, I now even understand jokes that I would not have understood at the beginning of the semester and I learn a few more sentences and expressions every day. Nevertheless, there are moments I do not understand what the topic is about. Especially during lecture preparations in groups or in some of my courses where we are separated through Zoom in a group with 5 people, and then we have to solve a case together and answer questions. Then, the others are discussing the topic and I am silently listening and try to understand what they are talking about. Sometimes the subjects are not so easy for me to understand for example when my colleagues use a lot of technical terms on the one hand or abbreviations on the other. Afterwards, I am usually asked whether I understood, because the French students know that I am an exchange student. Already a few times I had to explain that I was not able to understand, but the other students did not hold it against me and usually said “t’inquiète pas” which means do not worry about it. Clearly, I was very uncomfortable the first few times when I had to admit that I either did not understand and therefore could not contribute much to the solution, or when I had to explain that I did not comprehend it and would like to have an explanation. Meanwhile, I know that I do not have to be embarrassed if I do not quite follow what it is all about, because I am not always expected to understand everything.

It has never been as clear to me as it is now that it is important to listen to people who do not understand the language and also to ask without being asked if everything was understood or if something still needs to be explained.

First and foremost, I had to accept the fact that I cannot always join in the conversation and that I am allowed to ask questions if I do not understand. For this reason, I still hear the expression “t’inquiète pas” very often today, which has become very comforting to me because I know that the other people will help me and support me as long as I try and make an effort. It has never been as clear to me as it is now that it is important to listen to people who do not understand the language and also to ask without being asked if everything was understood or if something still needs to be explained. Therefore, I will definitely take this insight into account on the communicative level if I ever have a situation where someone does not understand the language so well. Admittedly, there were also situations in which French speakers did not react so nicely, especially when ordering in a restaurant and not immediately ordering a menu because I wanted to know what the menu contains. Then it already happened sometimes that the waiter switched to English annoyed, as I did not know the food vocabulary so well in French. I have also experienced similar situations in which people reacted impatiently and I now know from those experiences that it does not help the situation to put pressure on the person who does not speak the language. However, since these are and hopefully will remain single cases, I prefer to think of how my colleagues tell me “t’inquiète pas” and then explain the whole topic to me without blaming me or reacting in an annoyed manner.

Rahel Luder

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