I have officially crossed the half-way point for my time in Paris! As I begin week 5 out of 8, I have been trying to make an effort to actively reflect on the positives and negatives of my experience thus far in order to best understand what to continue and what to change in my remaining time in France. This past week was relatively calm, and the weather has been absolutely wonderful, making me truly appreciate the amount of casual beauty that just seems to radiate around Paris. I discovered a gigantic statue of a foot near my apartment, went walking in some of the biggest parks in Paris, and tried just about every single sandwich that my local boulangerie has to offer.
This weekend however, I had a wonderful opportunity to go and visit the family that I stayed with last summer out in the north-west suburbs of Paris. Not only was it wonderful to visit the friends that I made last summer, but it was also a unique chance to have unbiased feedback on my French competency from those who witnessed me first at my lowest levels of confidence and knowledge, as compared to now with my highest. One of the hardest things about learning a language is staying motivated, and I find that a perfect way to keep that motivation up is to do occasional check-ins on your progress through the eyes of a native speaker. It simultaneously affords you further drive to keep improving, but also helps you receive important feedback about what you still have to improve on.
At my internship, I have been steadily translating, and I am currently down to less than 10 documents left that need to be rewritten in English. I can confirm that translation is much harder than it sounds, and I have learned a lot about myself in just a few short weeks. For one, it has helped me tremendously with soft skills such as active listening. I frequently come across words or phrases that I know how to translate literally, but hold a different meaning in specific contexts related to the work of my NGO. As opposed to asking my supervisor over and over what a word means in a specific scenario, I have been practicing my active listening in team and larger group meetings to better understand the subject matter with which I am working. If a phrase pops up in a meeting, I write it down in my notebook, and try to note down both the context in which it is being used, as well as the new connotation that it is taking.
In terms of hard skills, as I mostly work within my comfort zone of Microsoft office, I can’t say I have learned a ton of new things through my translation. However, I am learning about the hard skill of person and task management that is so crucial to running a successful enterprise. Through BSF’s coworking platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, I get to see in real time the tasks that are given to my coworkers, and the styles of management that help guide those employees to their end goals. While I have not yet had the opportunity to use those hard management skills myself as of yet, I am hoping to ask to potentially shadow one of the larger team managers at the end of my internship after I finish translating.
Finally, while I am definitely a part of many cross-cultural interactions, it would be unfair for me to claim that I am solely responsible for navigating these discussions. What I have found so far is that the majority of cultural comparison, and by extension cross-cultural interactions happen when I am a part of a larger conversation during my lunch break with my coworkers. These discussions are normally heated, and participating takes not only a mastery of French, but also a large amount confidence to put your opinion in front of a larger foreign audience. As such, much of my contributions to these conversations have just been to compare the topic to its application in France to its application in the United States. I would argue that it is less of a global competency that has helped me achieve this, but more so that I am the only one at the literal and figurative table from a different country with vastly different experiences to share.
In conclusion, week 4 has been great, and I am very much looking forward to week 5!