When I entered the Residential College, I was a bilingual student. My native tongue is Chinese and is fluent in both reading and writing. My second language is English–I am supposedly fluent but I continue to learn new expressions and vocabulary.

Unsure of what I want to do with the language requirement, I took the Chinese placement test,  offered by LSA Asian Culture and Languages, my first semester. I passed the test and was placed out of my language requirement. Nevertheless, I was deeply intrigued by the semi-immersive language program that the RC offers. I knew through personal experience how beneficial knowing multiple languages can be, and really wanted to explore a new language.

Ultimately, I decided to learn French, and began taking the first intensive course in the winter semester. It was very challenging at first since I didn’t know any French at all. Learning verbs and its conjugations was particularly difficult. I also had to re-learn how to rote-memorize my vocabulary. My initial grades in the class were not great and I had to spend extra time playing catch up to the already intensive coursework.

Even then, learning French with my instructors Elissa, Dominique and Mark was a great experience. Knowing my difficulties in class, Elissa and Mark would always ask me to meet with them after class. They would re-explain to me the grammar points, correct my pronunciation, and provide me with suggestions on how to better practice what we learned in class. I also practiced my speaking a lot during our lunch tables and coffee hours with my instructors and my classmates. We would have a fun time chatting about various things and experiment with different colloquial expressions. 

Before long, my French started to improve markedly. I wasn’t stressed about my poor grades at the beginning because intensive courses are graded pass fail. I successfully passed my first semester and went on to my second semester. Our class prepared for the proficiency exam, which tested our reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. The exam was demanding, but it was also something doable.  

After I successfully passed the proficiency exam, I went on to take the French readings course. The course was taught by Dominique and the topic was existentialism. We read through many philosophical texts in French, such as works by Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. We then wrote several essays, completely in French, in response to the texts. Academic English can already be a struggle, so academic French is all the more so. What I did not expect is that, in the process of learning how to write clearly and concisely in the still unfamiliar French, I began writing better in English as well. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my semester of the readings course, but it came to an abrupt end when the COVID outbreak sent everyone home. We continued classes online. It was still great to see everyone on my computer screen, but I missed the in-person interactions. During the three semesters of classes, us students and teachers have built a close and enduring relationship. Our instructors have seen us during our struggles and know very well what we are able to accomplish despite the odds. I am very grateful for my teachers, and I am very satisfied with my choice to learn a new language through the RC.