Oui Can Do It

by Nicholas Schiavo on March 19, 2020

Oui Can Do It

by Nicholas Schiavo on March 19, 2020

Paris was one of my favorite places that I visited during FYSAE. The food was great, the sights were unreal, and the French people—well, not so kind. 

French was always the language I could never imagine learning. It seemed way too complex, so I stuck with Spanish in high school. But on the first day of ED 299: Understanding Language Learning, we were tasked with finding a language learning partner who primarily speaks a  language other than English and meeting with them once a week for an hour for the next 10 weeks. 

We were discouraged from picking a language we previously learned, so Spanish and Italian were off the table for me. I was a little nervous because I had no idea who I would choose or what language I would end up learning. I discovered that my good friend, David Jerez-Szathmary ’20, lived in France for eight years and was quite fluent. I asked him if he would teach me, and started my language learning experience. 

I started off Week One by stating my goals: I wanted to know enough basics to survive in France, and enough to make me look cool in front of my friends and/or the ladies. We started with greetings: bonjour (hello); au revoir (goodbye); comment ça va (how's it going). Once I got that down, we moved to short sayings, like “Je me apelle Nick” (“My name is Nick”) or “Je suis de Nouvelle Jersey” (“I am from New Jersey”). 

As we concluded the first week, David said to me that the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in its country, culture, and people. Obviously, I couldn't do that because I was here, but he did have a point. Learning a new language without being there to really experience it is a disadvantage to the learner. It's like watching all the trailers of a movie and not actually seeing it. 

My language teacher, David.

The second thing he said was that if I tried to speak French in France, I would “get laughed at” and that many would reply in English. From visiting France briefly, I knew these things to be true. But then I started to imagine how English as a Second Language (ESL) students here feel. The point of this project is to give us an understanding of how hard it is for people to learn a new language, especially in the classroom. 

As an educator, it is essential to recognize these things and make sure each student is experiencing a positive and productive learning environment. I believe what I just stated is what makes Arcadia so much more unique than any other school. Not only was I able to go to Paris in my first year of college, but I also had the opportunity to learn the native language of that city as well as discover new lenses to look at the classroom with hopes of making myself a better teacher. These types of learning experiences are what makes Arcadia’s curriculum so valuable and also makes me glad I chose this school.