“Petits” Discoveries Every Day

Programs for this blog post

Liberal Arts

Authored By:

CIEE Rennes

Language is a tool that opens a door for you to explore a new culture, people, tradition, and more. Its acquisition can take any method: studying grammar and vocabulary by taking courses, watching a movie or reading comics in the target language, or just watching Instagram reels that give you tips to sound more like a native speaker. However, none of these can replace the language skills that are acquired through a lived experience of linguistic and cultural immersion, which I have experienced in Rennes this semester. 

During the CIEE’s immersion program in the French language and culture, every moment of my day becomes a venue of new learning. In the morning, I often listen to the radio that my host family leaves turned on as I’m eating breakfast, and I catch some words that I had learned in class the day before. On the metro, I read in my mind the names of places on the line map along with the automatic announcements (for no reason…!), learning some linking of words. At lunch, I overhear conversations of local students sitting close to me, and get some casual expressions that you probably wouldn’t be taught in class. As I encounter these moments, I always have a sense of excitement and joy, like a curious kid that found something new to them. Eventually, these moments will link and connect to each other, which forms a network of new knowledge about the French language and culture.

Through this immersion process, I also develop a deeper attachment and connection with the language and culture. From time to time, I learn the names of vegetables from my host mother. Some are actually used in a dinner dish of the day, and others are from when I once accompanied her to a morning market. Would it be the same if I learned all these words in a textbook while living in the US? Probably not! Each time I learn new things here, that comes to have a different meaning from textbook experiences because they will directly relate to my life here. You want to know what is in the vegetable tart that you are eating at dinner! In addition, my daily small challenge of reading journals in French means something different too; this is because the topic that I read about can directly or indirectly affect my life in France, or just simply because I have a host family with whom I can talk about it. Moreover, as I talk with my friends who are also learning French, I practice expressing my feelings and opinions in the language . . . and at the end of the day, I feel that my sense of “That’s cool!” and a French phrase “C’est chouette !” start to get closer to each other in my mind. Overall, all of these experiences let me grow a deeper attachment with the language.

What I discover in these moments is not something special at all. However, it is this accumulation of realization that I think makes a language acquisition something to enjoy for me. It happens every day, in an unexpected situation. Personally, the tip of language acquisition is not just to study grammar every day, memorize vocabulary efficiently, or practice pronunciation repeatedly; but it is to find a way to enjoy that whole process. In my case, those subtle moments of realization enrich my language acquisition, all of which are realized by this linguistic immersion program. I get excited when my teacher uses the same expression as my host family! As long as I face these “petits” discoveries with pure joy like a child, I can keep enjoying learning French beyond my time in Rennes.

Takayuki Toyama

Soka University of America

CIEE-Rennes Liberal Arts Fall 2023