How learning French changed my life

Some confidence boost in French

You never know which conversations are going to change your life. Some time ago, I had one of those life-changing conversations. I was participating in a French class. My level of French was good enough to say what needed to be said but not a single additional word. By chance, I was the only student in that French class. So, the French teacher and I used that time to have a freer conversation about languages, teaching, and learning. Everything happened in French, I was there to get better at French conversation after all! The French teacher told me about how he got that freelance teaching job and how it was working out for him. We were talking about an amazing company which was the working place of my dreams for years. I was fascinated by that story. Before, I had been afraid to apply for positions like that, but he explained it to me in a way that made me more confident. He encouraged me to try it out myself. After all, I already was a language teacher. I just needed that push, a bit of information about how things were working, and that my skills were enough. Do you know that cliché about the German obsession with certificates? Yeah, I convinced myself before that I wouldn’t have enough certificates to apply for that gig. 

Without my interest in participating in that French class, I wouldn’t have met that amazing teacher. I wouldn’t have that encouraging conversation with him about that job. And stuff like that keeps happening to me. 

Learning business French, why not?

A few years before that conversation, I participated in a business French class. You know, that kind of class that all English learners see promoted everywhere for English. This one was for French, however. I was an undergraduate student in a Portuguese/Spanish program and felt like I had some extra energy to participate in a business French class. The class itself was amazing. We talked about business vocabulary like the important words for paperwork, expressions for meetings, how to write a CV, and lots of other stuff. If you asked me at the time why I was participating in that class, I would have responded “Who knows, maybe I’ll do an internship in France next year”. I did not. But I also didn’t have to do that to make the class worth my while. That business French teacher showed us what was important for language learning in a work and business setting. The teacher made us think about invoices, shipping, meeting minutes, and all those things I wouldn’t have thought about as an undergraduate student working on mastering several languages on an advanced level. I’ve never participated in a business English, business Spanish, or business Portuguese class but thanks to that French class, I know what to look for and what’s important to learn on my own. I’ve never needed to write a motivation letter or a CV for a job in French but better believe me if I say that training sessions for CV writing like in that French class helped me when I had to write my CV in English or Portuguese (or German, for that matter). 

Stories want to be told …

I was revisiting my e-mail inbox and reading old newsletters. There was one newsletter from last year that was talking about “accidental contacts” in a business context. “Accidental contacts” in the sense of contacts that were helpful for the business but not exactly planned like that. The newsletter came from Joana Galvão, the Founder of The Ambitious Creatives. Joana offers amazing content for creative businesspeople to get better at what they are doing. The newsletter content reminded me of the story of the French teacher who gave me the confidence to apply for that language teacher job. Joana’s newsletter always sounds very inviting for replies, so I took a leap of faith and replied, or how I would say it in a more German way: I jumped over my own shadow (“ich bin über meinen Schatten gesprungen”). I told the story about the French lesson that gave me confidence to apply for a job position.  Now, that French lesson gave me some content to talk about, to reply to Joana’s newsletter with a story, and to re-tell the story to you, too. 

… and lives want to be changed.

I am not saying that you need to take French classes to get a job as a language teacher, to be able to write CVs or meeting minutes, or to reply to a newsletter with a story. That would be missing the point. What I am trying to communicate is the following: You never know which conversations will change your life. And in case you are wondering, I got the teaching job that I applied for.