Alésia Chevaleret

Language Learning In Spite Of Illness

Due to my chronic illness, I’m unable to focus for long. I moved from Germany to France, thinking it would be a quick fix and not a lifelong struggle. I didn’t speak French and was only able to attend two months of class, nearly reaching a B1. Yet after a couple years moving back and forth, I found I was a C1. I’m sure I progressed because I was immersed, having to communicate with doctors and government officials, and I had an advantage because I took Spanish in school and already mastered German. Then I tried Hungarian, but just being in Hungary wasn’t enough. I’m only able to focus for 30 minutes at a time without crashing for days. I pushed myself to attend 1.5 hour long classes, but my brain hurt from contorting itself into doing more than my capacity allowed. Because post-exertional malaise is also cumulative, if I had class two days in a row, I’d spend twice as long crashed and unable to be productive afterward. Watching films and listening to music is great, but doesn’t really help me learn much. I even spent the Covid lockdown in a hostel with a bunch of Hungarians and still hardly learned a thing. I could listen as hard as I wanted, but I wasn’t going to just intuitively pick it up. I also lack the discipline required to self-study – I need something more structured. Finally, I found a way to adapt my learning to what worked for me.

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