As my previous post suggests, all my “first” experiences here as a French student were sort of funny. First class, first meal at the cafeteria, first contact with American students, teachers, coaches etc. My first tennis practice definitely belongs to those funny and unexpected moments that make you realize how long the way is before getting used to a new country and its language.
Indeed, before I came to the US, I knew I will struggle with the language although I studied English back home, but I didn’t think it would be that bad.
I notably remembered my first tennis practice. Before I even start playing with my teammates, Coach came to us and said a few words to each of us about our game. When it came to me, he said something like, “I love your strokes on your video (recruiting video).” I had no clue what “strokes” meant. So I just timidly smiled as I always did and still do when I don’t understand and don’t dare to ask the person to repeat. Then coach asked us to warm up and play in the little court squares. After about 5 minutes playing, he looked at me and said, “ok, let’s go and play from the baseline now.” Here again I had no clue what the “baseline” was.
I also had to cope with a completely new vocabulary that I didn’t study before (although I should have):
- drop shot
- cross court
- top spin
- flat serve …
Now with hindsight I feel so ashamed when I think about this but this first practice and my first semester tennis practices in general were about guessing. Coach was explaining one exercise and the only way for me to understand it was to look quickly what the other girls were doing and try to guess what the exercise consisted of. It was both challenging and stressful.
After 2 years, I can fortunately understand him as well as most Americans and trust me, it makes my whole experience here way easier.
Last but not least, I think that no matter for how long you study English in France, it won’t make you understand an American because French schools focus way too much on writing and reading to the detriment of listening and talking. Plus, the English you learn in French schools has nothing to do with the English Americans use. Ask a French person to talk with you … It may hurt your ears. In a more general way, I believe the only way to learn another language is to travel and talk with real native speakers. This is both more efficient and more rewarding.