I’ve been learning French since May, shut away at home, curtains drawn, eyes (and ears) glued to the computer screen. But there comes a point when the input of a real living, breathing human being is required.
Some of you may remember me mentioning a few months ago that my goal was to join a local French conversation group in September. Well, it didn’t happen. Why? Coz I cannot speak. And who wants to be sitting there like a nun in a condom factory? Not me.
I know from previous experience that there’s only one remedy for my selective muteness: Brute force. It’s a job for a professional bully, for someone who sits down opposite me and won’t budge until the cake lady talks. A cat o’ nine tails would speed up the process, but not many language teachers carry that one in their resources folder, I have found.
So, a friend of mine recommended a teacher, and on Thursday, I trotted off to my first lesson.
Poor woman, I should have prepared her. As you may have guessed by now, I’m not a terribly rewarding student first off. It’s not that I complain or turn into Miss Bossy Boots. But it can’t be much fun crowbarring sentences out of somebody while they pull a face like they’ve been sucking lemons injected with battery acid.
I also have a list of activities/subjects I absolutely detest in language classes. One of them is poems. My new teacher hands me a list of tongue twisters, which is kind of in the same category, only a million times worse. She tries to convince me that it is the best way of nailing the pronunciation. I do NOT agree. To me, it’s like being plonked into Bombay city centre at rush hour for your first driving lesson. Surely the best place to learn how to start a car and lurch along in first gear is a quiet parking lot? My sour lemon face reaches a level of contortedness on a par with the Gordian Knot. Slightly alarmed, she lets me read aloud through a couple of short texts aimed at preschoolers. That’s better.
Still smiling and chirpy, she drags me through the French alphabet, gives me a couple of handy pronunciation hits, cajoles me into squeezing a couple of half-baked sentences through my gritted teeth.
She tells me I have gazpacho in my head. I like gazpacho, but I can tell it’s not meant as a compliment.
Before one of us has the chance to collapse in a sobbing heap on the floor, the doorbell rings and the next student arrives. I leave so frazzled that I forget to pay her.
I’ll be back next week. Unless she’s left town…
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[Why am I learning French? See here for the answer: Scratching a 30-Year Itch]