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my language journey | beginner status

Je suis désolée, j'essaye, je te le promets.

I'm sorry. I'm trying. I promise you.
Small disclaimer: I am not a language expert. I still consider myself a beginner in my studying. I am in no way fluent in French, or any other language other than English for that matter, but I've been wanting to write a post like this for awhile. I want to share my language journey with you, and give advise for anyone who might want to try to learn on their own.

Someday in the future I plan to write detailed posts on why I am studying French specifically for my first language, why I decided to major in it in college, and why I strongly believe that language learning is so, so, so important for everyone. This post, however, is all about the how: how I began learning French, and how I got to the level I am at now.

I've been studying French seriously since about Junior year of high school. However, learning a different language has always been something that I have wanted to do, and I've been teaching myself little bits of language off and on since I was very young.

My first official French resource I tried was French in 10 Minutes a Day, a cheap, short, floppy workbook meant for people attempting to learn basic French quickly in order to have a nice vacation in France. Nothing serious. Even though it wasn't the best language source to realistically learn French well, it gave me the first steps I needed, and it cultivated my early fascination with language. It taught me basic vocabulary that has stuck with me to this day, and I believe I still have the workbook half finished and abandoned in a drawer somewhere.

Since I was homeschooled my whole life, I never had an opportunity to take a serious French class, so I began exploring online options. I would watch little lesson videos, listen to native French speakers, and I also joined a website called LiveMocha, a sort of social media site for people trying to learn languages on their own (however, it's sadly not in existence anymore).

Towards the end of middle school I finally convinced my parents to get Rosetta Stone, since I needed to start working on getting a language credit for high school. I firmly believe that Rosetta Stone is one of the best resources for starting to learn a language. It won't make you fluent at all, and it is somewhat pricey, but I feel like it gave me a way better jump start than any other resource I had used previously. I learned a lot of vocabulary and phrases, and it made my first real French class so much easier.

As I was going through the Rosetta Stone program, I also used some supplemental sources to go a bit deeper in my language learning, especially as I became more serious.
I got a nice French--English dictionary, and I would watch old French movies whenever one was on TV (which happened more often than you might think). 
I would google concepts I was confused about, and I would read various French literature, most of which was translated into English, but it still taught me cultural things that were important to know.
I also subscribed to a helpful youtube channel that I still watch regularly, Comme Une Française TV, that explains specific aspects of the French language and culture that isn't always taught in classes or curriculum.

No two people are the same, and what has helped me may not work for you. If you want to learn French or any other language, the best thing to do is to try different things. If you're serious buy different books, or look around online. In this day and age, the possible resources are endless. Just stick with it. Persistence and practice are ultimately the best ways to learn anything.

The Book Thief Again

I've written before about what a wonderful experience it is to read through an old favorite for a second time. I love the feeling of revisiting the stories and words that have become a part of me. The familiarity is comforting. And even though I already know what happens, rereading allows me to take a closer look at what it was that made a book special to me.

I first picked up The Book Thief in the summer of 2013. I will never forget it. It is not often that a book makes me feel the way The Book Thief did when I finished it, and I immediately recommended it to everyone I knew, wanting to see someone else grow to love it as much as I did. To this day, my old, battered, paperback copy has been read more than any other book on my shelf.

This year I decided it was time to give it a second look. I wanted to see if it still held its special place in my heart after almost 4 long years. And it did.

From the first page it took hold of me once again. The eerie narration from death, the beautiful descriptions, and the characters that break my heart every time. By reading it through a second time, I feel as if I paid more attention to the details, the foreshadowing and the use of the words to paint the story in a powerful way. I fell in love again with Liesel, Rudy, Max, Hans, and even Rosa who I didn't really care for my first time through.

The themes that are highlighted throughout the book also became clearer to me, and I was able to appreciate its message more. The importance of books and words and knowledge could've been told in many different ways. However, the World War II setting, the way it was told and narrated, the view of Nazi Germany that it portrays, all connect together so well, in ways that are surprising and profound, especially as I read it through a second time.

It's somewhat difficult for me to write about this book. I honestly believe it to be perfect, even though I'm sure it has its flaws. I could ramble on and bore you all for hours and hours about how much this book means to me. About how much I wish I could go back in the past and read it again for the first time with fresh eyes. Markus Zusak has truly written a masterpiece that, I am happy to say, will stay with me forever.
I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --Markus Zusak