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26 August 2013

Parlez-vous français? (Not so much.)

I was having fond reminiscences earlier about my French class, which was two years ago now. In so many ways, that was the worst class ever-- I think I ended with a C- (I took it pass/fail, so I don't really know), it took up so much of my time when I was trying to survive a difficult linguistics class, not embarrass myself in creative writing, and apply to grad school, all at the same time. And I don't even want to talk about what NaNoWriMo was like that year (although it was the time of the infamous "it's like being on drugs" quote-- come to think of it, some drugs might have helped) (just kidding: Please don't do drugs just because I said it would help).

Even through all that, it was my favourite of my four semesters at UT. Mostly, it was because of my creative writing class, which I loved. LOVED. Our instructor was amazing, and most of the class genuinely liked one another (or if they didn't, they were all very good actors!). And it was full of crazy-good writers. I spent the entire semester feeling inferior, but not really, because my classmates wouldn't let me feel that way for long. I thought more than one of my classmates from creative writing had guest blogged for me here before, but no, just one of them has. But even without them being willing to hang out around Cheekyness, they were still a great group. Incidentally, the class was entirely juniors and seniors, so I got to see about half of them graduate this past spring when I went to the English department graduation. Such a treat to recognise so many names.

This is French enough, right? To my great regret, we never
watched Phantom or Les Misérables in French.
Where was I? Right, French. The other big contributor to my loving that semester so much was French. Why? Because it was a challenge that I just couldn't overcome. I spent the entire semester frantically treading French water, trying to keep my head up enough to take a breath every now and then. I was hopelessly bad at it, the more so because I wasn't trying that hard due to the whole pass/fail thing and having five other classes that I did want to make good grades in. However, French Teacher is 1) Really good at teaching; 2) An all-around nice guy; and 3) The same age as me. The first two made me want to work harder in the class, because I felt bad for wasting his time and also because he's already perfected the art of gentle suggestion-- he'd mention in passing that I maybe should spent a little bit more time with vocabulary, and 20 minutes later I'd be in the library slaving over a list of French words. (Okay, it helps that I'm quite impressionable.)

The third bit, us being the same age, was just a help in making the class more enjoyable. There were a couple other non-trads in the room, but for some reason French Teacher and I were the ones pulling out all the same pop culture references and agreeing on all the cool hangout spots in town. For example, one day he asked (by way of talking about how accents affect your understanding), "How many of you have seen Trainspotting?" I raised my hand, but no one else did. He looked at me, grinned, said, "Okay, generation gap," and moved on. Repeat once a week for the entire semester, and you can see how the two of us struck up a friendship before the semester was out.

For all that the class nearly killed me, it was totally worth it and I can look back on it in fondness for this reason: It was hard. It was a struggle. For once in my life, I ran into something that brought me to tears of frustration on a regular basis and yet I stuck to it, gaining as my reward the very thing I was after: I know the basis of French pronunciation and grammar so I can at least have a stab at French words now. And as a bonus, I also learned about prioritization and that it's okay not to be able to do everything, two little nuggets of knowledge that are coming in handy in grad school.

TL;DR: Wow, that was long. Guess I needed to empty my brain. When was a time in your life that you felt like you were struggling for no purpose? (Bet everybody else's are a bit more substantial than French class.) What did you learn? What would you do differently if you had that time to do over again?

6 comments:

Carole Anne Carr said...

Struggling for no purpose? Well struggling every day, with books to write and an invalid husband to support emotionally and in other ways, but thankfully, always feel there is a good purpose.

Su Wilcox said...

See, I knew there were better answers out there than "French class"! You're making the world a better place, Carole!

Misha Gericke said...

Mmm... Mandarin, Singing (although I still continue and will do so for as long as my vocal chords hold) and writing.

Bet you didn't think anyone would put in the last one. ;-)

Su Wilcox said...

Nah, with the crowd I run in I knew it was inevitable.

Delores said...

Struggling to no purpose? Just trying to maintain my sanity on a day to day basis lol.

Su Wilcox said...

Ha!

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