Coping with my ‘Francophobia’

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I’m a first-year student at Glendon studying in the concurrent education program to become a French teacher. In the first semester, I’m only taking two of five courses in French. Why would that be? I admit I have a fear of French. I’m not referring to all aspects of the language, but I’m on uncertain ground in writing and speaking French in a French environment. As an Anglophone, French is not my first language so I’m slightly intimidated, but I’ve put it out there, so now I can take steps to conquer that fear.

I studied French for all four years of high schol, and despite this, I still struggle with the language I love but have not yet mastered. Learning a language can be rewarding, it allows you to connect with more people and encourages you to learn more about other cultures. Today, the appeal of multilingualism is more enticing than ever. In a study conducted by the polling organization ICM, 20 per cent of the over 1,000 youth surveyed between ages 14 and 24 already spoke another language at home and 70 per cent were interested in learning another language. Their motivations varied greatly: better job prospects abroad, being able to talk to more people, learning about another culture, and gaining a sense of achievement were among the top benefits provided by participants.

On the other hand, many people feel languages are too difficult to learn. In the study, the greatest deterrent of learning a language was difficulty with grammar and 27 per cent didn’t feel confident speaking. This is similar to my own challenges and experience. Personally, I struggle with grammar and I’m also often nervous about speaking to others in French. To help with my nervousness, I have begun to seek out new learning opportunities to improve my French. For instance, one of the students in residence is from Paris and, to my pleasant surprise, she told me she was interested in learning more English, so we could help each other.

As the bilingual campus of York University, there are plenty of opportunities for students to learn French at Glendon; their Toastmasters Club is the only bilingual chapter in Toronto where members can work on their public speaking and communication skills in both French and English. I was president of my youth Toastmasters Club in high school so this is just an extension of my desire to improve my public speaking. Also located on campus is the Salon Francophone, which is an open space where students can hang out with their classmates and practice their French oral skills together. Though many students may feel insecure about their French skills, there are many resources for you to take advantage of. Whether it be joining a club or practicing with your friends and classmates, practicing every day is the best way to gain confidence in learning a new language.