For a while now I’ve loved French, but not been in love with it. I’ve not been a good lover these last few years.
While at Loyola I was forced to take four semesters of a second language due to being a Spanish major. I reluctantly chose to study French; I was going to get in and get out as quickly as possible. Thanks to Loyola’s inventive post-K scheduling, I was able to take both semesters of Elementary French in two 8 week sessions during the 2006 Spring I semester. Needless to say, it was intense and I loved it! I’m not sure how it happened though, but it did. I quickly grew to become a fully-fledged Francophile. I ended up dragging out my French education into a few classes short of a minor. I loved it and I was good! I actually could speak French pretty fluently. In fact, I probably spoke French better than I did Spanish. During my last semester of college, I went to Paris and had several lengthy conversations in French which was a surreal experience. I spoke effortless French when only 3 years prior I knew absolutely nothing in the language.
Around that time, I went digging through some old projects from elementary school and came across a book about myself – “All About Me” or something else of that nature – and was surprised and amazed to see that my 10 year old self had 5 goals for his life, a sort of bucket list. Looking back, that list is uncanny: “Speak French, Go to Paris, Get a doctorate, Become a professor, and Visit Sydney.” I still am taken back by my 10 year old self’s ability to predict the future when he probably had no earthly idea what getting a doctorate entailed nor did he know anyone who spoke a single word of French (Side note: my parents had been to Paris several times and I devoured their pictures and tourist books. I could see myself waltzing in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles and eating snails at a chic little bistro on the Champs d’Élysée – I was a weird little boy. And I am fairly certain that the first pair of naked lady breasts I saw was in the program from the Lido – Showgirls!).
Well, that 10 year old boy would be ashamed of his 27 year old version. Sure, I’m still working towards that goal of a PhD and Tenure-Track Professorship. I’ve been to Paris 3 times and just visited Sydney on my honeymoon. But here is the embarrassing part – I’ve fallen into the trap of a former language learner in my post-undergraduate years. Distant from the comfy confines of a college classroom, I stopped progressing and started losing my French. Now, thankfully I put in a lot of hard work to learn the language so it has not left me that quickly. When I went to Nice with my friend Karlee, I was able to converse in French with the security guard telling us we could not sleep on the airport floor. I was also able to order croissants with no problem. Hooray!
But since then, I have really let myself down. To be honest, I’m not that out of the loop. I understood Serena Williams’ French Open victory speech in French. Ten points for Ravenclaw! But in no way should Serena be out Frenching me!
However, I must thank my dear Serena for providing that pivotal spark to get me back in the swing of things and make Sallie Mae proud! The last few weeks I have been devoting between 30 minutes to an hour each day to relearn this language. La langue plus belle du monde! That one! It is remarkable the progress I have made in just 2 weeks. I found a great not-a-textbook textbook at Half-Price Books (I was anniversary shopping and bought myself 3 books and the wife 0 books – Fail!) called “French Made Simple.” It is terrific and I highly recommend it to anyone learning a major language (They have Spanish, German, and English versions). I do all of the lessons out loud and write everything out as well so I am able to get optimal practice. I’ve paired this with a great reading book – “Easy French Reader.” As with my other book, I read everything out loud and repeat anything that doesn’t come out fluently. Lastly, I have found some great Podcasts on iTunes- Learn French with Daily Podcast and Learn French by Podcast. I try to listen to one Podcast a day so that I can increase my listening comprehension for my next trip to France or Canada (eh!). And lastly, I still use Benny the Polyglot as inspiration and for his unique “language hacks” (www.fluentin3months.com/).
In the end, I’ve been amazed at the amount of French I have been able to relearn in such a short period of time. It’s been an exciting experience in the nerdiest of ways and has stirred up many memories of my travels and French classes I took at Loyola with Madame Kornovich and Madame Mabe. It really gives me hope for the future knowing that I can do it and that if I play my cards right then I can even achieve a higher level of French communication. Honestly, I just want to read the Harry Potter series in French which is on my adult bucket list!