3 basic principles about authentic language

By Elizabeth Zwanziger

I went to the airport to pick up a student from France who will attend my institution as an international student this year. It thrilled me to have been chosen to do this task because this year marks 30 years (!) since I ventured off to France for my semester abroad in Nantes. I remember what that was like—knowing no one at all, navigating an unknown public transport system, eating foods I had never seen or tasted before, and, oh, THE LANGUAGE!!!

Oui, I had studied French for 6 ½ years by then. Like a typical student in the midwestern United States, I started in ninth grade and took four years of French in secondary school. When I went to college I continued on in French and decided to become a French major as a sophomore. I was a mean conjugating and memorizing machine! When I packed my giant suitcase for Nantes that snowy January day, I had no idea what I was about to hear 20 hours later when I disembarked in France.

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