Learning from a Textbook

Every once in a while you are put into a situation where all of your acquired knowledge and experience is needed, and no matter how hard you try, you cannot get past the starting line. I just had one of those days today. In fact, I just got home an hour ago from my embarrassing situation, and I just had some dinner before I typed this out. So, here’s how it went….

I needed to talk to a client, someone who I have been working with for the last while through Corrections Canada, someone who is currently on a community reintegration program and I needed to communicate with him for an up-coming meeting I was planning. The problem was, his parents are francophone, while he is bilingual. I never thought that would be much of a problem, but when I needed to find him, I had to talk to his parents to set up a meeting for some of the group work that we do through the program, and he was busy with his friends at the time. So it was just me and parents, and a huge language barrier. They could not understand a word I was saying–in my attemped at French. I tried to speak slowly and clearly, but that just seemed to make it worse.

Eventually, I think, we managed to find some common ground. Between my “textbook” French, and their very broken English, we made some headway. It was a long conversation of repeating, hand gestures and writing words on paper, but we had some nods of agreement. Very awkward.

I think today’s little adventure has taught me a lesson about some of the pit falls of learning through the classroom environment. Subjects such as second languages can be very misleading because they never seem to reflect the real world. I remember getting a very satisfactory grade in French, but now that I look back, I think I might have done very well as far the textbook goes, but my English accent could never compensate for someone who is a native speaker.

I think I feel worse for the poor people I had to talk to than the feeling of embarrassment I went through trying to attempt to speak French in the first place.

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