A quick note before you read this. I can’t figure out how to convert standard letters to letters with accents. So there are a lot of misspellings in here. Je suis desole.
I’ve dreamed of going to Paris my entire life. Well, at least since the 6th grade when I took my very first French class. Our teacher had a horrible accent and yet there was something wonderful and beautiful about the language. I remember it was around that time that my parents had gone to Belgium on a business trip. I cannot recall what they brought me back as a souvenir, but I was insanely jealous of the sweatshirt they gifted to my younger sister, screen printed with an image of sleepy Snoopy and Woodstock and stating “Je suis allergique au matin” (I’m allergic to mornings).
When I took French again in 8th grade I became even more fascinated with the language and culture, especially since we got extra credit for bringing in magazine advertisements or other articles with French on them. (L’Oreal? Estee Lauder? Who knew?!?). We had the same teacher again and whenever she would ask a question and we answered correctly she would exclaim “Bon!”, but with her terrible accent it sounded like “bone” – it lacked the nasality of real French. Also, being that we were in 8th grade, the boys in the class would mumble “er” each time she said it. Still that didn’t dissuade me from my fascination with all things French, and so when high school came around and French was an actual, real class that we could take every day all year I was ecstatic.
My high school French teacher had a legit accent, which further fed my love for the language and culture – because now I knew what it was really supposed to sound like and I loved it. We learned the French national anthem and the Our Father (I went to a Catholic school). We did skits where we interacted with each other in various scenarios (shopping for shoes, ordering lunch, etc). But then towards the end of my sophomore year I received devastating news: they were canceling French due to a lack of funding. My stomach sank. I cried. Junior year was supposed to be our year to go to Paris over spring break. Not only that, but I was about to lose one of the best things about high school.
So, I fought for the love of my life. In place of a formal French class my school granted me an extra study hall so I could take a correspondence course in French. I studied my textbook and mailed off my homework (this seems so archaic now, but hey, it was 1993 so….). I went to the public library to have my exams proctored. This continued my junior and senior years and is probably what got me through those challenging times.
I took the French placement test in college and tested out of the first semester. Hooray! So I started up classes again my second semester along with my roommate and two other students. College French was so much harder! Our professor was straight up French, from Nice. He wore a 3-piece wool suit all year round and had wild brown hair that he would dramatically sweep away from his face. But he adored me. He nicknamed me “Ze Star” (because his accent didn’t allow him to say “the”). But he was tough. One day he brought his 7 year old son to class, and we had to ask the son a question and see if he could answer us. We all gave it our best shot but we were met with a whiny “quooooooi?” when each of us asked our questions.
I had determined to minor in French so I persevered. Sophomore year and junior year both offered new instructors and bigger classes. Junior year I wrote an essay and gave a verbal report on Renoir – all en Francais! That was probably the pinnacle of my success as a French speaker. I’ve since gone significantly downhill. I transferred schools my senior year and in order to keep from extending my education to 5 years I decided to drop the French minor. I don’t know that I regret it so much as I wish I’d just kept up with studying and practicing the language.
Anyway, here I go! Mon francais n’est pas bien, but I’m hoping that if I at least give it a try they will show me some mercy.
It seems fitting to close with these words that Monsieur Leconnet always ended our class with: “Au revoir, a demain!”