May 19, 2024

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Life as an Expat: I'm embarrassed about my English

Life as an Expat: I'm embarrassed about my English

French Morning readers regularly submit to us their problems related to moving abroad. Twice a month, Vie d'Expat tries to help them by opening a library of books on personal development.

Today, Fabrice's story is one of frustration at not mastering English.

“The scene played out many times: I go to any cafe and when I order my “oat latte”, the barista asks me with a shy smile: “Excuse me… what?” » Then the same barista says “Aaaaaah… oat latte!” I try many approaches, many accents until I scream. » Did I say it right?

Obviously not, says my daughter, trying in vain to correct me by making all kinds of distortions with her mouth: “Ot…” “Sorry my dear, I can't tell the difference. » “It's not hard, though!” »

So, no, I don't have the gift of languages. When I was a kid, I didn't go with my parents around the world and across cultures, trips that could train my ears. In school, I didn't particularly shine in learning English or Spanish, which I had no memory of. So imagine the challenge when we decided to accept my wife's relocation to Miami. My wife, of course, speaks many languages.

Well, I play a bit of a victim. My English is not that bad. I can understand myself – except when I'm ordering Slate – and I more or less understand what they are telling me. Let's say 80%. But actually I'm shy. A big boy like me is incapable of developing a slightly interesting idea. That is, in English. Fortunately there was no one to seduce me. She would take me for the village idiot. A good guy who is always smiling because of the lack of words because he doesn't have something clever to say.

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I've been told that Americans love the French accent, and it's true. I've been told that everyone, or almost everyone, speaks with an accent, so you should start by not trying to speak well. But that is wrong. I tried. In my case, it didn't work. The less it works, the more I panic. And the more scared I am, the less I speak.

So, my question, French Morning: Is there any way to stop blushing every time I open my mouth? (Please don't send me back to English class!)

French morning's answer

Obviously, Fabrice, you're enjoying yourself Shame on you. We can't teach you English, but we can teach you how to handle your shame. First let's see what Michelle Larivey has to say The power of emotions About the shame you feel.

What is shame?

Shame is a mixed feeling. This is the social version of guilt. When we are alone, we are never shy when we face ourselves. Shame is a feeling always experienced “in front” because of the real or virtual judgment of others. Shame occurs when we look at an aspect that we judge most negatively. It is composed of a reaction of shame in the face of the judgment of others and a negative judgment of ourselves in this aspect. Additionally, shame is about our behavior, which is often accompanied by guilt.

Why shame?

It forces us to realize that we are not responsible for what has shamed us. It also allows us to recognize the judgment we make on the matter, a judgment that makes it difficult to accept the object of shame. Finally, it informs us of the importance our shy people place on us.
It takes a certain courage to expose oneself to the judgment of others and to agree to suffer shame. If I consider my fear of public speaking to be childish, it's natural for me to fear that others will judge me as I do. By exposing myself to their criticism, I take the risk of being humiliated. On the other hand, if I don't reveal what I am, I lose the opportunity to take responsibility for myself. However, in order to grow, it is important to face the reasons for my shame. This is how I can overcome. »

Choose Your Life - Tal Ben Shahar
Choose Your Life – Tal Ben Shahar

Perhaps you are too hard on yourself, Fabrice, you are making slow progress, but you are making progress. The worst thing is to stop talking, to stop trying anything so as not to make a mistake. Tal Ben-Shahar talks about this in his book Choose your life.

“When we talk about someone who has achieved amazing success, we usually only mention their exploits – rarely listing the many failures and other failures that stopped them in their tracks. And yet, throughout history, the winners have also been the ones who have suffered the most setbacks. And this is no coincidence. Achievers in any field know that failure is not a crippling obstacle but a stepping stone to success. There is no success without risks, and therefore without failures. If this obvious fact often eludes us, the end result is more visible than the process and its many flaws. If I admit to myself that in order to realize my potential, I must be willing to fail along the way, I no longer shy away from risk and gambling. The choice is simple: learn to fail, or fail to learn. »

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