Why I'm Learning French

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Back at the start of 2019, I set myself, what felt at the time to be quite an arbitrary, new year’s resolution: learn French.

So I headed straight to the app store and downloaded Duolingo, the language-learning app used the world over and signed myself up for the course in French, all for free, and got started. To begin with, it was very much a case of revising what I could remember from when I had last studied French properly a decade or so previously at GCSE.

For those unfamiliar with Duolingo, the course is split out into ‘topics’, with everything from work, to travel, to habits, health, and business, with the content getting gradually more complex as you proceed, and each lesson split into 15 or so questions to test writing, aural comprehension, speaking, grammar, and vocab. You either have to fill in the missing word, translate to/from French, construct the sentence from what you hear, or ‘repeat back’ what you’ve heard.

And so I kept up daily lessons, and have done ever since, at the time of writing, I’ve got an unbroken 425 day streak, hitting my goal every day for over a year.

But in 2020, my new year’s resolution was actually to start taking it a bit more seriously. I’ve started taking one-on-one lessons with a wonderful French teacher who lives just around the corner, we meet up every weekend and split our sessions into general conversation about our lives, what’s happening in the news and so on, and then spend the other half concentrating on grammar in particular. We speak almost exclusively in French (usually until I can’t remember / don’t know a certain word), so they’re quite intense, mentally taxing sessions!

That said, it’s an absolutely fascinating process, and it is not only strengthening my French abilities, both in terms of written and spoken communication, but it’s also helping me develop a much deeper understanding of linguistics, in the English language as well as the French!

What’s that got to do with running a business?

Well, two things.

With a company-wide focus on diversity and commitment to our team, it was really important to me to lead by example. Taking the time to develop additional skills that I can not just use in the business, but also in my life outside work, is, I hope, the manifestation of our company’s spirit of constant improvement. But it also demonstrates that we aren’t just paying lip-service to these values, we genuinely believe that taking the time to pursue something you’re passionate about all whilst developing new skills should be actively encouraged at every level.

And how is learning French helping in particular? In a globalised technology market, the power to communicate across borders is more important than ever. As a marketing agency too, the power of communication cannot be understated. I’ve found that learning a new language also develops the ability to ensure you’re communicating the most important details succinctly and accurately, even if that means adapting the ‘content’ of the message for a different audience. Even if what you want to say is essentially the same, the way you say it in two different languages means you need a different approach.

So here’s to another year of lessons, practice, and translating odd sentences back and forth to French while I wait for the kettle to boil.

A bientôt !

— Thomas

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Beacon was founded back in 2018 with the power of storytelling as a guiding value, especially in the tech industry. As one of the UK’s only smart-home specialist marketing agencies, we’re helping brands of all sizes reach their consumers, tell their stories, and communicate their messages to an exciting and growing market. Interested in finding out more? Drop us a message!