Monica Michele Lambert
I have been assigned to a Sub-Saharan Africa Peace Corps post because of my French education at NMU. I am embarking on a journey to Madagascar in March 2013, where I will be serving for two years as a Rural Environmental Food Security Advisor with the Peace Corps. French is their second official language next to Malagasy. I have been told that English is not well known in this country so I am looking forward to learning the Malagasy language as well as drawing on my French language to communicate. I have always wanted to visit Africa and have been intrigued by its vastness. I am really excited to start this new French journey, even as French has already been useful to me in my travels.
Speaking French helped me gain respect from the people we met in the summer of 2012, only two years after graduating from NMU, when I traveled to Rwanda for two weeks, where I visited a friend serving with the Peace Corps. I was able to communicate in French with some people in the capitol and on several bus rides, as French is one of their official languages, along with Kinyarwanda. It was a very new experience for me to be in a place where I could not communicate in the local language. I felt very helpless, and the country nationals there seemed a bit disappointed that I did not speak Kinyarwanda, as my friend did. It was a very comforting feeling to have French as a means to communicate at my disposal.
Before my travels, I was a French student convert after studying Spanish for three years in high school. After my first year at NMU, I decided to take Dr. Kupper’s Cultural and Artistic Heritage of Europe (FR 438) course, which had a foreign study component, where we traveled to The Netherlands, Belgium, and France. The very next semester I found myself in French 101, and then continued my studies of French while at NMU. Reflecting back to my education at NMU, I always remember feeling nervous to speak French in class, but I did not feel nervous in Rwanda. When I made a mistake or my pronunciation wasn’t perfect, they just corrected me politely and it wasn’t a big deal. I really wish I would have studied abroad in France when I was at NMU. I think it would have made me a much more confident speaker. I am hoping that my upcoming French experience in the Peace Corps in Madagascar will bring me even more confidence.
Update: May 2013
I passed my language proficiency test yesterday! My dialect has quite a bit of French in it, which makes me happy. In one week I will become an official Peace Corps Volunteer as up until now I have been a trainee. We have a big swearing-in ceremony at one of the U.S. Embassy estates, which will be really fun.
I am currently located in Morarono or Foulpointe, Madagascar, and my house is twelve kilometers bike ride from a really nice beach town, with a 3-star resort. Recently, as part of our training, we took a technical farming trip to a farm that makes chalk as a supplementary income project. It was quite beautiful.