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Column Archives > What you learn when you keep trying

20 Jul 2023

One of these days it might be necessary to admit to myself that it is becoming ever more likely that I will never be entirely fluent in French.

Despite the workshops, the workbooks, the CDs, the story books, the tapes, the emails, the classes and the trips I've dabbled in here and there over the years, I might not even make it to conversant.

In my defense, this is not because I'm totally inept, though I may have lost a few connections in the brain -- synapses or something -- that younger language students still have.

This is not because I haven't been motivated, though I'm equally motivated in about five other areas and spend equal dabbles of time on perhaps too large an array of projects.

This is simply because there are just too many French words and too many ways to string them together, some of which require too many ways of conjugating. And that's not even to mention that every noun is either male or female (car is feminine, taxi is masculine) and every adjective must be either masculine or feminine to match.

It may also be time to admit to myself that all those books in my basement that I printed thinking people would want to read them, may remain in my basement.

This is not because I haven't tried to find people to love them through bookstores and galleries and websites.

This is because ... I don't know why this is because. Or I don't want to admit I know why.

But not learning French and not selling books is not failing.

And that is because of all I've seen and done, all I've learned and felt, everyone I've met and every way I've grown in the process of trying.

I loved meeting the French people (all six of them), whose English was worse than my French so they listened long enough to try and figure out what I was saying.

I've loved opening my mind to a second language and developing a greater appreciation for another culture.

I'm glad I could learn more about my own language by studying another.

It's good to have a greater understanding of what others go through as they try to learn English (which not only has more words but has more exceptions to rules).

And just maybe I'm keeping a few more synapses in the brain functioning by continued studying and memorizing.

As for publishing a book, I loved when someone wrote to tell me the thoughts in my book had meaning to them or inspired them to do something or helped them recognize something meaningful they would otherwise have missed in their own lives.

And reading again the words penned in a different phase of life has kept the memories of that phase, and all its richness and all its challenges, alive.

Sometimes trying has its own reward.

Admitting that my dreams may be a bit out of reach, sometimes because of my own limits and sometimes because of things over which I have no control, will not make me quit trying.

I'm made of sterner, stubboner, more irrational stuff.

Not making it to the end of a journey doesn't make the sights you pass along the way any less worthwhile.

There is still a chance and only quitting would take that chance away.

No matter if it's likely or a stretch, I'm going for that chance.


First published in the Davis Clipper on March 14, 2013

Louise R. Shaw