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Nicole Vezina, Michigan State University

19 Feb 2019

My first TalkAbroad experience was one of the best French dialogue learning experiences I’ve ever had in my now fifth year learning the language. As an introduction to the TalkAbroad dialogue program, my French 202 class at Michigan State University was asked to interview a TalkAbroad partner of our choice with the goal of asking them questions about their lives in France/Canada, their studies, what their family is like, and even some of their hobbies. Before my session, I composed a rather thorough list of about thirty of these types of questions. I feared that as the session went on I would run out of things to talk about with my partner. Much to my surprise, however, I began to use that list less and less as the conversation went on! I could tell my partner was incredibly patient and qualified for her job and encouraged me to explore new vocabulary and ask for clarification when I needed it. I found this incredibly useful, especially knowing that my dialogue partner was there to help me learn about her language, not make me feel lost or unsure of my current knowledge.

One of my favorite parts of my first dialogue with my partner was when our conversation shifted from traditional getting-to-know-you questions to a much deeper conversation about our similarities as students in the university setting and our hobbies outside of class. Before long, I was able to converse about things that I was actually interested in knowing about my partner and her life, rather than simple prompted questions I thought out beforehand.

After my conversation, I was asked to write a brief transcription of my TalkAbroad session from the audio file I received from my partner afterwards. This is where my comprehension was really enhanced by this dialogue program. As I was transcribing parts of my partner’s conversation, I realized I was able to pick out more and more parts of her descriptions of hobbies and background information than I did during the conversation itself. Simply hearing the conversation a second time allowed me to truly understand some of the minute details my partner was talking about and the grammatical phrasing she used in expressing it. I made it my goal for my next TalkAbroad dialogue to actively listen for the types of contextual phrasing patterns I missed the first time to see if I am able to comprehend more of the language on the spot.

By the end of the assignment, I was confident that not only had I exposed myself to a new level of French dialogue comprehension, but I had also allowed myself to accept my conversational downfalls and assess a few areas to enhance for my TalkAbroad conversations in the future. In the end, my first experience with TalkAbroad has made me excited for future dialogues and to be able to use such a platform to become an active participant in my French dialogue comprehension.