Meet Jin Jin, better known by her family and friends as Kitty!
When she first stepped into the Alliance Française de Chicago four years ago she didn’t know any French, not even “bonjour.” She had just quit her job and moved to Chicago where she knew no one. Now she is an accomplished French speaker who wants to continue to perfect her skills and share her love of the language.
“I never thought of learning French although I was a language teacher. But, one day I walked past the building and thought, why not,” Kitty said.
She began watching YouTube videos and movies in French to help her prepare for class.
In her initiation class with Jamal, she found it challenging to talk about her new city in French. She grew up in China where she taught English to travelers and studied Korean in grade school and German in college. So when she wasn’t grasping the French language at first, she became very frustrated and thought about giving up.
“That really did a number on me, because I was a straight-A student in my student life, always loving learning languages. I’ve never felt like I didn’t get a language. It was very frustrating for me,” Kitty said.
In China, learning new languages was often a strict and rigid experience. Even students’ accomplishments were met with stress and comments on studying harder. When Kitty’s teachers at the Alliance pushed her to keep trying, she found the support refreshing and encouraging.
“They taught me to have fun and enjoy the process of learning. Having class is not so serious, it’s a fun process,” she said.
Despite her hesitation, one of her teachers, Elodie, encouraged her to take French proficiency exams B1 and B2. She offered her materials and suggestions on how to study, and to Kitty’s surprise, she passed both successfully.
“The ambiance here is very friendly. As you can see Elodie and Jamal, they’re not only my teachers they’re my friends,” Kitty said, reflecting on classes with Geoffrey, Elodie, Jamal, Marie, Anie, and many other teachers.
She also thanked her husband for her progress in French. He went to her first class with her and even though he did not continue, often brought Kitty cartoons and movies to watch in French and would watch them with her multiple times to help her practice.
One of her favorite memories at the Alliance was last year when everyone threw her teacher, Camille, a going-away party. She baked a cake and students and teachers brought gifts and even invited Camille’s boyfriend from New York.
“I was thinking, ‘what if I leave? I’ll miss everyone so much, is anybody going to miss me,’” Kitty said. Her thoughts were answered when it came time for her to move once again, as usually happens every few years due to her husband’s job. During the past few weeks many have given their email and home address and asked Kitty to write en Français.
Her favorite word in French is clapotis, the French word to describe the sound of water droplets, because there is no word for the sound in Chinese and she loves how precise the French language can be.
Before moving overseas last month, Kitty check to see if there would be an Alliance Française near her and was happy to find out that there is a location near her new home. She plans to continue learning French and will start a blog written in French about her adventures in a new city.
“Even though I’m leaving, we will always be connected. I told Elodie, ‘you will always be my teacher.’ So, it’s not just a language school for me. It’s a place to meet people and share the best moments here in Chicago,” Kitty said.
“Je t’aime Alliance Française !”