One of the grounding components of my weekly timetable are the two French classes per week. I have a feeling that long after I leave Paris, I will either find a local french class at a higher level, start my own French book club or do something to keep the weekly dosages of French coming. I’ve fallen in love with my classmates, with the language and with the sense of continuity and consistency it gives.
I guess the gift of learning a new language is not only that it opens up a whole new world of literature, art, politics, film that was previously inaccessible – it also appears to make me more aware of myself. That is something that I had not banked on discovering.
I’ve learnt more and more to hesitate before I put a value on what people say. I’ve learnt not to judge people too harshly for their words because language and words can be quite separate from who we really are. Just because I have taken on a new language does not really change who I am. Yes, it gives me a new means of understanding the world and of speaking about it, but speaking French has little or no effect on who I truly am.
So, if language is simply a functional tool, I’ve come to conclude that it”s always a good strategy to take what people say with a touch of skepticism because what comes out of the mouth may simply be received and unquestioned (pretty much what I am doing in French class). And when people say mindless things , I guess it also makes sense to give them the benefit of the doubt by the same token. We use words but they are not necessarily a reflection of our true selves.
The logical offshoot of all of these assumptions to me is that if words and our true selves are two different entities – then, getting to know myself becomes interesting. I no longer understand myself through my own words or those of others about me. I look elsewhere : Into how my partner makes my eyes light up everytime he walks through the door, into how a piano piece by Satie or Chopin bring parts of my being alive, how walking onto Saint Germain everyday makes me walk with a spring in my step and a bit of pride.
Learning a new language is teaching me both about what words makes possible but also how they are objects that are outside of who I or other people are. Learning a new language neither makes me or other people better or worse. (See the advert below were the message is if I am already ridiculous in English, even with perfect French this would not change)
The greatest gift I am drawing from this is that always try to take apart peoples words from who they are, do not take things said personally, because they do not have the power to alter you and that I should not judge myself to harshly for the careless words I say. Now that’s a magnificent gift that I am drawing from French class!