Today, we had a half day of class observations and and English class at the lycée. We had so much fun in English class! We participated in almost a “speed dating” activity, where we quickly moved from one conversation to the next with the French students. It was a blast! After that, the students had a free afternoon with their French host sisters!
Below, we are reflecting on empathy, one of our four core values. Being in a language immersion program — with our host families and at the high school, has given us lots of opportunities to put ourselves in other peoples shoes and appreciate the exchanges of both language and culture that have taken place.
Zoe: Throughout this trip we have had several different English classes in which we help the french students with their written and spoken english. In all of the classes, we have people with varying levels of english and it’s not easy to interpret what they will or will not understand. During one of my classes I used the word “biased” and they had no idea what I was talking about so I had to explain it to them but then used language too complicated for them. In that moment, I had to realize that they are in a similar situation as me and they are trying hard to understand the language but I need to simplify it a bit for them.
It can be difficult and daunting to try to speak to a native speaker in their language especially if you are not fluent. I am dealing with that for many hours every day but it is no easier a task for the french students. After having some confusing interactions with different french students I was able to find the empathy to adjust myself to their needs instead of just speaking like normal. For me to succeed in France, I need my family, teachers, and other citizens to have empathy for me by slowing down, using less complex language, and being patient, and I need to have the same for others.
Laura-Joëlle: I came to France so that I could gain a better appreciation for French culture and improve my language skills. Unfortunately, I have to say that I haven’t taken advantage of my time here as much as I had wanted to. The truth is, I haven’t had fun 24/7 during this trip because I’ve missed home, school, friends, family, etc., and I was really nervous about interacting with my host family–I wanted to be respectful and not say anything offensive by mistake. Well, it’s safe to say that this plan backfired since I’ve also been nervous about speaking French (mainly due to the fact that I’m too caught up in making mistakes), so I didn’t realize that I was minimally communicating with my host family, which worried them. Now, I’m so grateful for what my host parents did: they talked to my teachers who explained the situation to me, which was when I realized that the trip is almost over and I’ve barely gotten to know my host family. Tonight at dinner, I had a conversation with my host family about their concerns, telling them what was going on, and they were so understanding about the whole situation; now we’re in agreement that over the little time I have left here in France, we’re going to have meaningful discussions and learn about one another’s culture more. My nervousness surrounding my host family is gone, and I feel a lot more comfortable now that the situation has been handled in the way it was, thanks to my host parents’ empathy for me.
Empathy has been a really important part of the trip especially with the language barrier. As my host student practiced English and sometimes struggled to find the words, I noticed how similar it felt sometimes to speak French. Having to switch my brain, embrace the language learn new vocab, I grew to understand her perspective. I could put myself in her and understand how hard it is to speak another language and we could understand how to help each other when we are struggling. Having my host student try English while I try French was a really nice experience while also difficult, but I’m glad I could understand. I.t was very difficult at first because my speed with French was not great due to nerves but once we began to validate each other and understand each other the nerves left. Empathy with a language barrier really aids connection
Laura Joelle and Zoe enjoy English class!
Susan: During our trip, empathy was one of the most important values. On the first night in Rennes, I was not used to the French-speaking environment yet, so the ongoing conversation was hard for me to follow. At some point, the mother of my host family noticed that I was having difficulties understanding, so she reminded everyone to slow down their speaking whenever we were discussing something. After that, they wanted to include me in all of the conversations, with their friends or other family members. After each meal we had, they would check and ask me if I understood the conversation at the table or if they were speaking too fast. They also encouraged me to speak more and to practice my French, and they would correct me as needed when I made a mistake. They were being extremely understanding, empathetic, and patient about me learning and trying to comprehend the language, which I have been so grateful about the entire trip.
Tanya, Susan, and Tania in front of the bistro in Vitré
Tanya: Empathy is another important core value that we demonstrated throughout the trip. With the language barrier it is important to show empathy towards people who are trying to speak English just as how I hope people would show empathy to me with my French. It is important to understand that it is a second language and it can be really difficult for some people to learn a foreign language since it comes easier to some than to others. When demonstrating empathy patience is essential because it may take people a while to form the correct sentence in their head, keeping in mind conjugations and grammar, before saying it. Speaking another language is rarely instinctive and smooth flowing. Luckily everyone that I have met here has been extremely empathetic and understanding towards my French.
Tania: My host family has been very empathetic throughout Intermission. They always make sure that I feel welcome and are very attentive. From the first day, they have tried to make sure that I am comfortable. They always offer snacks, water, “picnics” for excursions, metro tickets, etc.
During our first few days in Rennes, I had trouble understanding French. My host student noticed this, and since then, has been very attentive. She is great at speaking slowly and recognizing when I do not understand something. If I don’t understand a word, she immediately tries to explain it in an easier way. Her family also does the same thing. They are very patient, and help me when I don’t know/forget some words in French. They also always try to create conversation, which is very helpful. I think they have realized that I am the kind of person who talks a lot when someone else starts a conversation. This has helped me get to know my host family, and be able to bond with them. If it were not for their empathy, I don’t think I would be as comfortable speaking French. I would probably feel judged, and would be embarrassed to talk. I am very thankful that my host family is very understanding in this matter.