“What is the wall that stands in our way?” I read in the new self-help book I am reading. I know what you are thinking. I know that I should be filling my time – which is a precious commodity – with more useful things than reading a feel-good book that preaches that it has the solution to almost every ailment in one’s life. Let’s give this book a chance, okay?

Speaking of walls. A few years ago, when I was about to embark on a new journey with my studies, I was tasked – in order to embark on the second year of the MA program – with writing a thesis proposal in French, since I was doing my studies in French. I learned a few months ago that writing a thesis proposal is actually one of the most difficult tasks in academia, but back then, I didn’t know any of that. I didn’t have a clear topic. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I wanted to work with one particular professor. That seemed enough for me back then, but not for many people around me. So after doing some research and reading a bit about some topics that interested me, I called my prospective thesis advisor and I suggested a few topics. I was running out of time as it is often the case with thesis proposals and deadlines within academia. I was, however, able to write a few pages which didn’t follow any format, didn’t have a clear introduction or any conclusion. I must have copied a few phrases from here and there also, since paraphrasing, quoting, and rephrasing were as alien for me as writing back in those days. My prospective thesis advisor after reading what I had presented him uttered the following 4 words that I will never forget: “Ton Français est lamentable.” (Which translates literally as: “Your French is awful.”) A few years later, with this same thesis advisor, I wrote a 400-page thesis in French. I got 18/20 on the text and the presentation. It was one of the highest grades ever given to anyone in that field. My thesis advisor and the whole thesis committee highly advised me to publish my thesis, which I never did. Over the 5 years that I spent trying to work on that thesis and to write it, I was never been able to pass that mental wall. It is as if, that wall is always present wherever I go and whatever I do. Last month, I sat for the French CLB test in Canada to assess my French language skills. I scored 7, 8, 8, and 8 over 8 on the 4 aspects of speaking, writing, listening, and reading. Whenever I am asked whether I prefer to communicate in French or English, I choose English. Whenever someone speaks with me in French and expects me to answer, I either let him/her speak for a while and try slowly and carefully to answer, or I simply answer in English.  The wall is there. It has been there for a while. How do we tear it down? Shall we go around it? Shall we climb over it? Shall we create holes in it?

Thank you for reading.

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