Multilingual Environments: Language Immersion and Exhaustion

Headshot of Kiki Giles.
Kiki Giles
December 2, 2022
Multilingual Environments: Language Immersion and Exhaustion

When I started my search for my study abroad program, I had already made a short list of must-haves. This list was comprised of several factors, including the ability to live in a homestay, classes I was interested in, and the requirement of being hosted in a francophone country in the Middle East or North Africa. However, I was also very passionate about being able to study in a country in which I could strengthen my skills in French and begin learning Arabic. 

With all of that in mind, this IES Abroad program has been a complete success in meeting my wants and needs in a study abroad program. Beneath that success, though, lies a very complex environment for me as a multilingual person.

On the one hand, I’ve been more than able to accomplish my language goals. French is one of the major languages spoken in Morocco, and I’ve been able to bolster my French skills through conversations with my host family, discussions in my French-taught courses, and general interactions in stores or on the streets. Similarly, my Arabic skills have been further developed by my coursework in my Modern Standard Arabic class, as well as my conversations with my host family and other Moroccan people. The truly immersive environment that Morocco provides has been absolutely invaluable in this regard and is something I value after many experiences in both immersive and intensive language-learning programs. 

On the other hand, this multilingual environment can very quickly become exhausting. Back in the United States, I had become so used to being able to express myself quickly and easily through English, with the very occasional use of French in my courses or extracurriculars. However, in Morocco, English does not have a very strong presence. Most people converse in French, Modern Standard Arabic, or Darija, Morocco’s colloquial Arabic. Where I could once express myself clearly and with ease, I now find myself stumbling over sentences in an attempt to find the right word or phrase in French or Arabic. There are so many moments where I feel as if I’ve managed to lose several points of my IQ from how long it takes me to find the right thing to say in either of these languages.

However, I could not beat myself up over this. My experience, including all of the frustration and mistakes I make every day with my second and third languages, is completely normal. After all, I did not grow up speaking French or Arabic. I didn’t even start learning French until I was in middle school, and then Arabic came much later in the summer after my freshman year of college. Compared to my twenty-one years of exposure to English, my ten years of French and two years of Arabic are literal children. I’m bound to mess up and say the wrong thing, but that doesn’t make me an idiot. I’ve still managed to learn so much and I can still do so many things in both of these languages. Reading a research article in French for a college-level course? Yeah, I can do that. Telling someone else about my field of study in Arabic? Yeah, I can do that too. 

Those examples, and all the other ones I remind myself of, are how I manage my feelings of embarrassment or idiocy. I’m always going to hit a limit on how much French or Arabic I can speak on any given day. However, I can still find ways to be kind to myself, as opposed to beating myself up over something that is very normal.

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Headshot of Kiki Giles.

Kiki Giles

A rising junior hailing from the College of Wooster, I'm pursuing a double major in Anthropology and French/Francophone Studies with an accompanying double minor in MENA Studies and Statistical/Data Sciences. These intersecting fields brought me to my upcoming study abroad experience in Morocco, where I am incredibly excited to explore the many cultures and languages that have shaped this beautiful country. Other interests of mine include international baking, travel, and music.

2022 Fall, 2023 Spring
Home University:
College of Wooster, The
French Language
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