If you keep up with me at all, I am sure you have noticed that I struggle with being satisfied with what is less than excellent. I like things to be perfect, in fact. Language learning is not the friend of perfectionists, let me tell you. Not to mention, language acquisition can truly make you feel like a child all over again. Sometimes, not even that esteemed, because let’s be honest, children in the country are speaking with more fluency and ease than I as I learn this new language.
Language learning has been forcing me to rethink what I want to say since there are words in English that do not translate because they do not exist. When I ask, “how do I say _________ in French?” I am often answered with, “what are you actually wanting to know?” It has become more a lesson of knowledge seeking than language learning, in a way. Rewiring the way my brain thinks also becomes apparent when I view my test scores.
From the beginning of classes the professors have told us, “if you have more than 50% on the tests, you are doing well.” But to a perfectionist, it does not feel “well”. While many of my tests have had a “B” for “bien” on them, I struggle to accept the scores as good. Anything below a high 80 feels to me like a disappointment. Why? Because I am a product of a paper pushing society that does not like mistakes or failures. In all my years of school, I was naturally “smart” (for lack of a better word) in my classes, an A/B student. Now I find myself in a world where I am forced to study (and I do not really know how to do that) so that I can take a test that is supposed to gauge where I am in my learning. 2 months in, and I have only had one test that has even breached the 80s.
But I have to remind myself of 2 things.
Just as my friend and fellow language learner, Tabitha, reminded me this week after I received yet another score in the 70s, I cannot look at it from 100%, I have to look at it from 50% up. To put this into an even more drastic perspective I recall coming to Switzerland as a level 0. I am now in the beginning of B1 (Level 2, Unit 1). With only a few lessons of Duolingo and Rosetta Stone under my belt, I remember my first day in class. . .I felt like I was drowning. The week was terrifying and I wondered how I would ever survive. While some things have gotten easier, they have also gotten harder so I still feel like I am drowning. But when test come, I have to remember to look at it not from 100% down and not even from 50% up but from 0%. . .from my level 0 to my B1 - 74% is nearly 3/4 of the way to 100%.
I have only been learning French for 2 months. In just 10 weeks I have climbed through an entire course of French! While I make millions of mistakes a day, I am able to carry on conversations. I have obtained a library card (and understood the extra bonuses of having it) in French. I have gotten my watch battery replaced. In restaurants I can read the menus and make simply orders. I can send mail at the post office. I can read library books, signs, notices, mail, and messages. I am able to watch tv shows and movies with the French subtitles and gather most of what is being said.
So while most days my brain feels like mush and I am exhausted and while there are days I truly just want to throw in the towel and be finished with what seems like such an impossible task, I must press on. This is what God called me too. He did not call me to language UNDERSTANDING He called me to language LEARNING in this season. Learning is a process. My brother Jonathan told me he made up a new word for “perfectionists” that better expresses what we want:
With all of these things in mind, I sat in the library yesterday working to control and subdue my thoughts, forcing them to submit to the truths that I am here for a reason, I am doing fine in language learning, and I AM succeeding. During that time I began to think about why I was frustrated and I was struck with this challenging thought which I will leave with you: