English is my first language, but when I was a very young child my mother enrolled me in this summer school program in Chinatown… basically, it’s what ethnic mothers did to their American children so they’d learn Chinese.
Chinese is incredibly hard, there’s a bunch of characters, and you basically have to put them together for a meaning or a different word — and with a stroke of a pen, maybe you wrote something entirely different instead. I’ve completely forgotten everything (even how to write my own name!), but I can still speak mediocre Cantonese though.
I also think languages that have masculine and feminine verbs are extremely hard too. In English, everything is just “the”… the cat, the dog, the house; and everything is “a”… a man, a woman, a horse — what I find very hard practicing my French is all the gender identity for the verbs: le chien, le chat… but at the same time, you can also write: la chatte, la chienne; but at the same time some verbs are not exchangeable, like “une pomme” (la pomme)… but how are you suppose to know which verbs are masculine or feminine at all?! The only way is to learn each gender with the verb… it’s so much easier to just stick “the” or “a(n)” in front of everything! Oh… and accents, how am I suppose to remember where to put them!?
I’ve “met” a lot of French speaking people lately (I haven’t actually met anyone in person), they find me on italki and then send me requests on my Facebook or Skype … most are from Africa somewhere (a lot are from Morocco). I’ve learned so much about Morocco lately! First, I think Morocco is very similar to a place like Egypt (I know some people consider Egypt as the “Middle East”, but it’s actually on the African continent); before, the only thing I knew about Morocco was from watching the movie Casablanca (ha!).
I’ve been trying to immerse myself into the language as much as possible, but it’s extremely difficult, it would have been easier if I was home (NYC) — where I could eat authentic French food, or take a French class, meet actual French people from France, go to the French embassy or consul, go see French movies, read French books, etc. — where else in the world would I be able to immerse myself into another culture without having to actually go to the native country? Where am I going to find a French person in Iowa!?!
I’ve been listening to French songs, watching French TV shows (I’m currently on season 3 of Engrenages), and practicing my vocabulary and grammar (and I’ve started reading French children’s book, I’m currently reading Le Petit Nicolas)… but I haven’t had any opportunity to actually speak it with someone, which I think is what I really need to work on. I think my pronunciation and accent is probably terrible.
Native speakers always comment that my French is “very good” (but that’s because I’ve studied it in school for a total of six years — two years in junior high school, three years in high school, and one year in college) — but during that whole time I never spoke it with anyone! How am I suppose to know I’m even saying something correctly?