made it to Meetup!

entree a la clavier

So I finally got myself back to a French conversation Meetup for the first time in at least a year. After putting off thinking about it all day, then purposefully making myself late to leave work, feeling nothing but dread walking the six blocks over to the location, and using all my resolve to actually walk through the door, I prayed that the bar would be empty. But nope, a crowd of people were clustered together, chatting away.

Within a matters of seconds I broke into a conversation and everything was fine. The usual self-consciousness that paralyzes my French-speaking brain like a parasitic fungus calmed down after the first few words came out of my mouth, and I felt inexplicably at ease for the rest of the evening. I had thought I’d have to force myself to stay for a half hour, but by the time I left an hour and a half had breezed by without me realizing it.

Dalia

First I spoke with Dalia, an Arabic teacher who is originally from Palestine but moved here 15 years ago and now lives in New Jersey. She was super impressive because she learned French when she was young, forgot it all, picked it back up and started teaching herself just one year ago – and she was speaking beautifully, like she was fluent. Two good online tools she told me about that I will definitely be checking out in the hopes they can do for me what they did for her: Shared Talk (a free service provided by Rosetta Stone for language chats) and Anki (flashcards for vocab building).

Dykeman

I also had a long conversation with Dykeman, a publisher of books about the South, from which he hails (Tennessee/North Carolina to be a little more exact). Normally I just shoot the shit in French and make banal small talk but we actually covered a lot of interesting ground that I would have been just as happy to chat about in English: he suggested I watch an Antonioni film set in Barcelona (the Passenger), we discussed our angst about contemporary media distribution models, and I was excited to meet someone who knew about the Lost State of Franklin.

All in all an excellent and encouraging evening. I think Duolingo is to thank for getting me out of my habit of translating and thinking through every word before I say it out loud. Sure, when I speak as quickly as I did tonight (which, sadly, is still quite sluggish), my sentences come out sloppy. But on the other hand when I can actually say something without turning bright red, halting and/or reversing course every five seconds, that’s got to be an improvement.

I’m looking forward to going back in a couple of weeks. Which makes it official: facing down fears is my new favorite thing. (Don’t tell that to any roaches.)

(Top photo: Frédéric Bisson. Middle and bottom photo: Me.)

(get over the) hump-day inspiration: louis c.k.

Louis C.K. GQ cover

(Photo: Peggy Sirota/GQ)

Words of wisdom from Louis C.K. in the new issue of GQ:

“You’ve got to embrace discomfort,” he said. “It’s the only way you can put yourself in situations where you can learn, and the only way you can keep your senses fresh once you’re there.”

This needs to be my mantra as I psych myself up to go back to French conversation Meetups for the first time in more than a year. I find them so awkward and deflating. My everyday self-consciousness balloons seven-fold at the prospect of not understanding anyone and/or butchering such a melodic language. And it’s exhaustingly hard work to catch every word the person speaking to you is saying and to formulate a response that both makes sense and talks around the words you don’t know. Without fail, I leave feeling like Sisyphus instead of patting myself on the back for taking the baby steps that will eventually add up to progress.

But! Meetups are the best, cheapest way available to me now to get over the listening and speaking hump and the more I do, the easier it’ll be when I go abroad for full-on immersion.

One of the reasons I started this blog, actually, was to force me to go to Meetups so I’d have something to write about.

I’m giving myself the month of May to dive back in. With this blog as my witness!

P.S. This week’s inspirational quote is pretty much a reframed version of last week’s quote. I’m a one-trick quote pony I guess.