When I was 11, my teacher told my mother at a parent teacher interview that I should learn French, as it was a handy language to have in the future. Over the summer school holidays I picked up a second hand book with French in it and tried to practise reading it out loud (undoubtedly my pronounciation would have been awful). When I was 12 I started learning French, I continued it into high school, and when I changed to a school that didn’t teach French I learnt it by correspondence. As each year went by I would tell myself, just one more year, then I’ll stop, never intending it to continue past high school.
My mother always told me that she had taken French when she was young, but she couldn’t remember any more than a couple of phrases. I figured I would end up like that. However when it came time to pick uni subjects and I really had no idea what I wanted to study or where I wanted to end up, I discovered that my Uni had a specified program (one with no major) called Science International, where you could team up science subjects with any one language.
So French and chemistry were the basis of my further 3 ½ yrs learning at a tertiary institution. When I finished, I decided to go serve a mission for my church. I was hoping to get called somewhere where I would be able to speak French. September 11 happened just after I sent in my papers. Everyone told me I would get kept somewhere close to home (my sister was hoping for Wellington) so I was hoping for Tahiti. When my call came it was about the furthest place on the planet that it was possible to go, 11hrs time difference between here and Switzerland.
I loved Europe, once I got used to it. It did take some getting used to. When I got home I got a job at a lab in Tauranga, thanks to one of my old Chemistry professors. Then I got a job teaching Tahitian missionaries at the Training centre in Hamilton.
Then I started looking for a permanent job, and it just so happened that Air New Zealand was looking for French speaking check in agents, right at the time that I was looking for a job. I went for a group interview (one of the most nerve-wracking interviews I’ve ever experienced in my life) and came out the other side with a new job and a move to a new city. Then when I applied to transfer back home, the key factor in their decision to hire me was the experience that I’d already had in my job in Auckland.
My point to all this, is that one little decision when I was 11yrs old, has influenced so many things in my life up to this point that I find it hard to believe. I probably wouldn’t have the job that I have now, or even live where I live now. I’m sure I would have studied something entirely different at Uni (probably humanities, which was what I was also leaning towards).
Nearly everytime I go away on holiday, I run into people, who speak French. Usually they’re quite surprised to find someone who speaks their language so far from home. My life has been enriched in so many ways by the ability to speak a second language. It has also taught me about the huge impact that the little things can have on our life, further down the track. Who would’ve known that from such small and simple things, great things could come to pass?