I took French in high school because I was a ballet student and I wanted to understand the terms we used. On the first day of class, my (very young) French teacher told us a story about her recent trip to France. She tried to order a glass of vin rouge in a cafe, but the waiter wouldn't serve her until she pronounced the "r" correctly. She tried to switch to vin blanc, but he wouldn't allow it. He made her repeat the sound over and over, until she was reduced to tears and got it right.
I decided right then and there that I would never learn to speak French correctly.
For six years, I took French classes. I read Candide and Rhinoceros and Les Jeux Sont Faits. I took a history of the French Renaissance in French. I learned to take notes in French and pass tests, but I never set foot in the language lab, because someone at another station might hear me. I never asked a question in class without writing it down first to make sure I had the words in the right order.
Once I left school, I never spoke another word of French aloud. Until last year, when I began another French class at my daughter's school.
My heart pounded so hard each time I attended class. There were 12 adults there, so I could hang back and get away with only speaking a sentence or two. The teacher caught on to me, though, and assigned me an essay every week. We read Reza's Art aloud. Her corrections were gentle. I began to get some confidence.
Last week, only two of us showed up for class and there was no where to hide. I've discovered I can put enough words together to make myself understood. My accent is undoubtedly still terrible, but I am beginning to think in French again.
It's amazing what a good teacher can do.
Causes Loren Rhoads Supports