Learning A New Language

Learning a new language can seem  daunting and totally impossible. But today I want to talk a bit about how It IS POSSIBLE!

English and French are the two official languages in Canada but growing up on the East coast,I was raised speaking English. I wasn’t extremely exposed to French nor did I live in a French speaking community. In elementary school where I grew up, we started taking a French class in fourth grade. We learned the basic concepts like numbers, colours, and common questions.

In my experience, it was very fun learning a new language in school. After seventh grade, I decided I wanted to immerse myself even more into the French language as I thought it would be really helpful to know a second language. At the school I was attending, I was enrolled in the French immersion program. My homeroom teacher was an Anglophone but she completely taught herself how to speak French at a young age and she told us that she immersed herself so deeply into the language she became completely bilingual.  She was really inspiring to me and I wanted so much to be like her. The other teachers in the French immersion program had horrible French. I know it sounds a bit mean to say, but I knew I wasn’t learning the language properly there.

I don’t know the exact though process of 12 year old Zoë… but I decided to transfer into a completely French speaking immersion school. Yes, after learning basic French for 4 years, I decided to completely go to school in French !! At first it was really hard…. I remember I had an interview with the principle of the school and I had to prepare my answers for the questions I expected her to ask. One of the words I learned before the interview was “Défi” which means challenge. When she asked me why I would like to transfer to the French school I remember saying “Je veux un défi.” Which means “I want a challenge”. Thinking back on it now, I didn’t quite know the kind of challenge I was getting myself into.

At first it really was a challenge. I was thrown into an environment where I had no idea what was being said half the time. I was learning the typical eighth grade materials in science, math, art, etc. I had a lot more work than the other students because of the language barrier. But after my first few months at the French school, I was already fully understanding what was happening in class. I would estimate it took me about a year to be fully comfortable speaking and understanding the language. Of course I still had some troubles and I often had to use my “dictionnaire” while doing homework. But for the most part, I was doing really well.

Because of this experience I had at the age of 12-13, I now know I am capable of learning a new language. I know my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to taking on this challenge and I am ready to do it again with German. Since I made the decision to move to Switzerland, I knew I was going to need to learn the language of my region, which of course is German. I started by taking the basic classes in university. {Fun fact: this is actually how I met Tom because he helped me with my homework for class.} I did a whole year of German studies and it gave me a basic understanding. Then when I moved to Switzerland, I took an intensive course in the summer. It really helped me to immerse myself right away because the class was everyday and I had homework every night. I slowly got more comfortable speaking German in supermarkets, coffee shops, etc.


I completed a whole level in that intensive course (A1). Which brings me to where I am today! I am continuing now with the next level (A2) at ENAIP Schweiz. It has been a great program for me to further my speaking and understanding capabilities. Learning German in Switzerland is not as easy as learning it in Germany because of the different dialect spoken here. I talked about it in my last post but if you didn’t know, Swiss people speak Swiss German which is a dialect that is similar to German but also very different in many ways. Usually, people learn “regular” German first before attempting to learn Swiss German. But with ENAIP I have been able to learn them at the same time as my classes are all in German but being surrounded by Swiss German speakers all day in public really helps me to pick it up as well.IMG_0843

So that is a little bit about my language learning story. I would really recommend you try to learn at least one other language in your lifetime. No matter what age you are, you can always learn! Everyone learns at different speeds so if it takes you a little longer than it took me, don’t give up! And if you  learned even quicker than me, good for you! Keep going!😊

For the mini bonus German lesson in today’s post, I will teach you a question to ask that is important to know when you are meeting people abroad.

The phrase is: “Woher kommen Sie?”

Which means “where do you come from?”

To break it down:

  • Woher = from where?
  • Kommen = to come (verb)
  • Sie = you (formal version)

If you were to directly translate it into English, it would read more like “From where come you?” but obviously this is not the proper grammatical structure in English, so as you can see the grammar in German is quite different.

The response to this question would be: “Ich komme aus Kanada.”

Which means: “I come from Canada”

Break down of the response:

  • Ich = I
  • komme = come (conjugated form to the first person)
  • aus = from
  • Kanada = Canada


That is all for today, I hope you enjoyed this post. As always, thanks for reading and following along on my Swiss adventure.





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