Ariel in Paris #3: Disneyland and Le Défi

Hey guys! Welcome to another thrilling update in the “Ariel goes to Paris for a semester abroad” series. Today I actually have something to tell you about that happened this week, yesterday actually (assuming I managed to get this post up before midnight). I went to Disneyland Paris! It was a ton of fun.

I went with a few friends, and we got there about 30 minutes after the park opened and then stayed all the way until the fireworks show right before closing. Honestly, I still kind of can’t believe we were really there that long, because the time felt like it was flying the whole day.

Of course, since I was there for almost 10 hours, I took a lot of pictures. Here are a few of them:

I started off the day bright and early (honestly, too early, but I was going to Disneyland so it made it worth it), because we wanted to be there as close to opening as possible and it took about an hour to get to the park by train. Of course, I did have to go back to my house to get my ticket, so that put me a little behind, but it all worked out in the end and we got on the train, excited to be heading to the park.

It was kind of the perfect day to go, as long as you don’t mind a little rain, because for most of the day, the longest line we had to wait in was only a 30 minute wait time. In Disneyland. On a Friday. I guess I don’t know how busy Disneyland Paris is normally, but I have to imagine it’s busier than that.

When we first got to the park, I figured that we would only be there for a little while. I had heard that this park was a lot smaller than the parks in the U.S., so I couldn’t imagine it would take that long to get through everything. And yet, somehow, the first hour passed, and it felt like we’d only been there for maybe thirty minutes. Then the whole rest of the day continued like that, passing so quickly that by the end of it, it honestly didn’t feel like 10 hours had passed. My feet didn’t even hurt, not really (though that started to change a little as we were walking away from the park at the end of the night).

I guess it was just all the excitement and adrenaline that kept me going (have I mentioned that I am literally a child when it comes to how much I love Disney movies?).

What didn’t keep going, though, was my commitment to my (and my friend’s) personal défi (French for “challenge”) during our time at the park, where, near the beginning of the day, we decided we would try to speak in French as much as possible during the day. That plan lasted about 10 minutes before it kind of fell apart again. This is a problem I’ve been noticing ever since I stopped doing the official défi through my school two weeks ago—but I guess I should probably explain what that is first.

As some of you know, I’m in a French immersion program, and one of the ways this program encourages students to practice the language as much as they possibly can is through something they call le défi, which is basically just a weeklong pledge to speak only French as much as you possibly can (unless of course the person you’re talking to doesn’t understand French—like if you’re calling back home or something like that). You can do it as many times as you want, but if you do it five or more times (they don’t have to be in order), your name gets put up on a plaque on the wall, signifying that you crushed your goals, basically.

Anyway, I came here so I could make my French better, so of course I decided I wanted to do le défi. And I did so, rather successfully, for two weeks in a row. Then I decided to take a couple weeks off before jumping into the next round (my current goal is to do it for two weeks every month until the end of the program). During that break, though, I told myself I would still try to speak French as much as I could, I just wouldn’t be as hard on myself about speaking exclusively French.

Now I’m approaching the end of those two weeks of break and, looking back on them, for the most part, I only spoke French when it was required, such as in classes or with my host mother. In most other situations, when I could speak English, I did. I only spoke French with my friends in passing phrases.

I’m really disappointed with how little I actually practiced speaking my target language during the period of time when I didn’t have an obligation to speak it. The reality, though, is that the participants in this program are all students who study in the United States, so all of them speak English, if not natively, then at least conversationally, and it makes it really hard to not follow the easy route and just speak the language I’m comfortable with.

I know that I just need to do it, and I want to, because I know that’s the only way to get better. It’s just hard, is all I’m saying.

I’m sure this is not an uncommon problem for language learners, and maybe especially language learners in an immersion situation like mine. So much of the time, on the train, at the dinner table, even walking down the street, I’m surrounded by people speaking a language that I understand, more or less, but don’t feel super confident speaking. Plus, I have had to adjust to all the different customs and social norms. It’s all a little overwhelming, and I’m not usually the kind of person who likes to push themselves much out of their comfort zone.

So, when there is something familiar, I latch onto it, and it’s hard to let go.

Next week, though, I’m doing le défi again, so the familiar is going to have to go away for a little while. I just wish I could show that level of dedication all the time.

***

I don’t really know where I thought that was going to go. I just wanted to talk a little bit about my struggles with trying to break out of my bubble and actually go to a place where I can start to learn. Let me know down in the comments if you’ve ever had to force yourself out of your comfort zone. How was it? Do you feel like you learned anything? Let me know!

Thanks for reading, everybody! I’ll see you soon.

-Ariel

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