“Katie, est-ce qu’il y a quelque chose que tu n’aimes pas? (Katie, is there anything you don’t like?),” my 8-year-old host sister asked as I sat down at the breakfast table and poured my coffee.
“Hmmm. Est-ce que tu veux dire quelque chose dans la vie où quelque chose dans le contexte de la nourriture?” (Do you mean in life or in the context of food?), I responded as I watched her pour chocolate powder into her yogurt cup.
“La nourriture! (Food!), she said while gobbling down a mouthful of the yogurt/chocolate powder concoction.
“Oui! Il y a une légume que (Yes! There’s one vegetable that)–
“UN légume,” she said dramatically as she jabbed her right index finger in the air.
“Opf… merci. Il y a UN légume…” I corrected myself and she contentedly returned to her yogurt as I finished telling her about my disdain for celery.
This exchange perfectly represents my relationship with my youngest host sibling. She asks me questions about my life with genuine interest, corrects whatever rookie mistake I make in my response, smiles to herself knowing she knows more than I do, and then listens to the rest of what I have to say. I can properly conjugate irregular verbs in the subjunctive, but sometimes I make mistakes with the simplest of things and it’s nice to have the reminders – I’m sure I’ll never confuse the gender of vegetables again.
Her mother calls her “bavard,” which means chatty, and that she is. Whether she’s raving over mother’s dessert – c’est trop bon (it’s too good!!!) – or singing at the top of her lungs what she thinks are the lyrics to “Mamma Mia,” there’s rarely a dull moment with her around.
Some people would become frustrated spending time with a garrulous 8-year-old who is not afraid to point out faults, but I truly appreciate my conversations with her. I always learn something new or at least have the opportunity to practice with someone who doesn’t value my worth by my French. My experience living with a host family has surpassed all my expectations and I would highly recommend a home stay to any future study abroad student.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Katie Nodjimbadem is a junior at Northwestern University majoring in journalism and planning to minor in French. She enjoys writing about diversity and culture for North by Northwestern magazine and loves interacting with prospective students as a campus tour guide. Katie bleeds purple and loves to cheer on her fellow wildcats at varsity sporting events. As the daughter of two Francophone parents, she desires to improve her French to better understand her heritage and strengthen her ties with her extended family.</span></p>