1) Fact: It is hard to be funny in a language that is not your mother tongue. Believe me, I’ve tried several times. Doesn’t matter if you fancy yourself the French Tina Fey , you will never be sure that your audience is laughing for the right reasons.
2) L’accent. Having a strong American (or as easily, English) accent when speaking French can be troubling. One of two things can happen when you open your mouth: Either, people will stop listening to you as soon as you start talking, or, they will proceed to use you as a way to practice their (often bad) English, instead of vice-versa.
3) That being said, don’t try and cover it up! As long as your grammar is ok, having an accent when you speak only makes you more charming, or at least so I’ve been told. Hey, Jane Birkin made it work, so can you!
4) Never forget that you will never be a native speaker, regardless of how much you want to be or how good your French is. Accept it, and move on!
5) Accept failure. Frustration, miscommunication, and defeat are facts of life, and even more probable while studying/living abroad. However, this is no reason to panic, or shy away from oppurtunities to desert your comfort zone…in fact, the contrary is true. Having studied,worked, and well, lived as a foreigner in France, I can tell you that yes, discomfort and misunderstanding are part of the game (hello, language barrier). I was not always able to communicate as easily as I would have liked, and as a result, perhaps missed out on having relationships that would have been more fruitful had they been in a different context (i.e. my native language and country!) Not to say that having meaningful relationships isn’t possible, but it usually requires much more effort, and indeed more time, to develop, (problematic in a 4 month study-abroad scenario!
6) When you reach that plateau…Anyone who has fervently worked to master a foreign language and/or live in foreign culture has experienced this kind of heartache…the horrible but necessary plateau one reaches after the brain is oversaturated with new words and new ideas. It’s as painful as it is necessary, but once it’s overcome, you can breathe, for you can speak again. YOU HAVE ARRIVED!