I'm up to my head in it…french that is.
Présent, passé composé, imparfait and futur….le and la…masculine or feminine – I am currently drowning in french and yet, none of it is sticking.
This isn't my first foray into the language. There are my parents – M. et Mme Pierre who are two Haitian immigrants living in america. They each speak it (and creole) very well but didn't teach it to us growing up (I've stopped asking why). Then there was the four years of high school french (which I slept through) and the two semesters of intensive french in college (where I made the mistake – my sophmore year – to sign up for classes that took place everyday at 8am. I barely made it through.) Which leads us here today.
Oh today, where for two hours, twice a week I meet with a tutor. A native french person who makes my brain feel like it is being pressed together with a panini maker. I sit across from Mme Tutor and feel like the dumbest person in the world.
Why is this language so hard for me to learn?
Now, it isn't that I don't have the basics down – I do. I also have a large french vocabulary but when it comes down to me being able to put a couple of sentences together – well you got me. And after being corrected like – 15 times, my head is in that vice contraption. The meeting moves on from idle conversation to an actual lesson. I'm in month two and she is still getting a handle on what I may or may not know. Sample conversation:
Mme Tutor opens a book and points to picture.
Mme Tutor: Qu'est-ce qui est cela ?
Mlle Pierre: Umm, la parasol
Mme Tutor: Non, le ou un parasol
Mlle Pierre: Umm, ok, masculine – got it
Mme Tutor points to something else.
Mlle Pierre: Umm, chaise pour la plage?!!?
Mme Tutor: (chuckling) Non, il est un transat ou une chaise longue
Mlle Pierre: un transat or une chaise longue…ok
Mme Tutor: Créez une sentence en utilisant ces mots
Mlle Pierre: Ok, umm, Le monsieur repose
Mme Tutor: Le monsieur se repose
Mlle Pierre: (with questionable look) Le monsieur se repose sur le transat
Mme Tutor: Le monsieur se repose sur un transat…
Mlle Pierre: that's right because it's 'one' not 'the'…ok…un transat…umm, beneath?
Mme Tutor: SOU
Mlle Pierre: Oh, oui un transat sou en parasol
Mme Tutor: all together
Mlle Pierre: Le monsieur se repose sur un transat sou en parasol.
Mme Tutor: Oui, bien!
Doesn't your head hurt just reading it. Aww, the struggle! And I still have an hour and half to get through. Did I mention that I've studied french before? Did I also mention that I plan on moving there – to live and work?
After this lesson (where we went on to talk about the verb être) I began to allow myself to day dream. What if I could go back in time…back when they were creating the french language. Get them to stop all the nonsense with masculine/femine and just have it like we do. It's just bread…no le or la. Or how about dog…no, le chien or la chienne (don't even get me started on the verbs or how you have to put du in front of thé because you can't have 'all the tea in the world, just some tea'). I would explain to them how in the future this makes the language incredibly hard for people to learn. For ME to learn and couldn't we just make it easier, simpler – just like those british people are doing across the pond.
Do you think the guillotine was already created?
What is actually getting me through this – the belief that I will someday be able to REALLY speak french, is the fact that my parents (like many immigrants) moved here not knowing a single word of english. They each spoke french and creole, my dad also spoke spanish but neither of them had had one english lesson. They came here and made it work. No foundation – no nothing. I am moving with the ability to read (kind of well) and write (maybe not so well) french and the weakest of abilities to speak it.
And after all, everyone says that immersion is the best way to learn, right? Isn't that why people are forking over like $1000 bucks for Rosetta Stone. It helps 'immerse' you in your tongue of choice.
In the meantime, I will go on memorizing that pig is masculine till I'm blue in the face or get that time machine made. Anyone can tell me how we're doing on the latter?