I Spoke French. And God, Did It Hurt!

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.

Yup, that would bring out my chatty side...

You really want to bring out my chatty side…?

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.

Contents of my head

Contents of my head

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…

You never know, I might graduate to bouillabaisse one day...

…and you never know, I might graduate to bouillabaisse one day…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 *    *    *    *   *    *    *    *

[Why am I learning French? See here for the answer: Scratching a 30-Year Itch

 

 

 

 

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75 thoughts on “I Spoke French. And God, Did It Hurt!

  1. Giovannoni Claudine

    Keep up the good work… it takes time, but you’ll soon enjoy your endurance! Is always important to get a way to practice with s.o. with french mother tongue! Try to find out s.o. on skype and go for it.
    Je te souhaite un bon Dimanche, et encore une fois, bonne chance!
    :-)claudine

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Yes, I will look for people on skype, but I need to get a kickstart from somewhere first. It’s very tedious trying to maintain a conversation if you just can’t form a sentence yet. For this reason, it’s better to pay someone to get you through that stage, I find. Thanks for your encouragement 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
      1. Giovannoni Claudine

        The very best way to learn (as far as I’m concerned) is to be in the place where the language is spoken… there aren’t excuses since you have to cope with the day-after-day routine 😉 but nowadays skype can do the trick! I cross my fingers for you, and when you plunge into it, you’ll love it really much! Hugs :-)claudine

        Liked by 1 person

    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Well, I don’t really like having other people there, lol, so I tend to opt for 1-2-1. I freeze up even more when there’s an audience. At least in the initial stages. Later on, it’s fun to have classmates.

      Like

      Reply
  2. Trippmadam

    Glad that I am not the only translator who is scared of language class. We have learned several languages already and still, a new language is scary. (No, I do not want to be reminded of a language called “Turkish”. Never ever. On bad days, I even avoid the street where the Turkish grocers reside.)

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Ha ha, I sense some big trauma there 😉 The thing is, every time I do this, it’s like the first time. In my head, I know that it’ll be fine, but on an emotional level, I always find myself back at square one. So, Turkish wasn’t a success with you, then? I hear the grammar is formidable…

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  3. linnetmoss

    Yes, you are brave! Or masochistic. Or both.
    I would have loved the poems. Maybe I’m the one who needs this teacher! In the meantime, she should reward you with bites of cake when you get things right.

    Like

    Reply
  4. Susan Foley

    Hi, it’s your cake-baking friend from DuoLingo.

    I took 2 semesters of French in college and I have a mother who grew up speaking French (the Canadian version) at home and part of the day at school. All my older cousins can speak French because they came into contact with Memere and if she hadn’t died I would probably be able to speak French too. In junior high school I had to choose a foreign language and the only options were French, Spanish and Latin (German was available in senior high school). Mom “saw the future” and said I should learn Spanish. I don’t regret learning Spanish. But I feel as though I’m missing the connection that my cousins have.

    Well there’s always food and I saw a French-Canadian food page on Facebook. The recipes are in English though.

    (I’m Irish on my father’s side and the Irish language would be a real challenge, even more so than German. That’s for the future.)

    Bon chance!

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    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Hi there Sue!!! Look forward to you getting into French cakes, what a treat 🙂 Don’t forget to send me pics! Anyway, it’s never (or hardly ever) too late, so do join me on DL French!

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      Reply
  5. Susan Foley

    I’ve got a lot going on right now so I can’t really start a new language until I’m settled (I’m moving to my Dad’s house). Kicking back with the German course is keeping me sane.

    Darn! I started exploring that FB page and found a recipe for Maple Cream Pie. I like anything maple (and it has to be the stuff that comes out of the tree not maple-flavored corn syrup!) so I will have to try it. Maybe for Thanksgiving.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  6. joannesisco

    The ending of your post made me smile remembering an incident while we were training for the Paris Marathon a number of years ago. I was running with one of our very good friends who would be coming to Paris with us. During the run, he suddenly asked if I would ‘talk dirty’ to him

    … he then started pouring forth every French food he could think of … bouillabaisse, croissant, baguette, mille feuille, foie gros, …. you get the point 🙂
    I miss running with him, he was hilarious.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  7. Kim in Fiji

    Your problem is that you want to sound GOOD. Why not just jump in and slaughter it for awhile? Make a game of “how badly can I pronounce this that the teacher can guess what I’m saying?” kind of thing. Claim it is an “accent” from somewhere exotic. ha.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      It’s not really pronunciation so much, it’s forming sentences. And also comprehension…am really bad at understanding what’s being said to me. Though I like the idea of sounding “exotic” 😉

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      Reply
  8. June

    Have you heard of Michel Thomas? He came up with a method of language learning that is completely audio based – no poems, books or rules. I already spoke good French by the time I heard of him but I’ve heard many great reports about his method. It ain’t cheap, but less than the cost of a course with a real person, I suspect. Bon chance!
    http://www.michelthomas.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Cheers, June! Yes, I’ve heard of him. Never tried it, though… always suspicious of *Methods*. I think human interaction is key. Language is, first and foremost, a medium for interpersonal communication, and nothing, in my opinion, can ever replace the feedback you get from a real person. Also, for the adult brain, grammar explanations etc, are required. And luckily, French is well catered for in this respect by our beloved internet 🙂 So jealous of your French skills, sigh!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  9. Kim G

    Very funny post! You had me laughing out loud several times.

    So did you throw Portuguese sous l’autobus?

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where at one point we were relatively conversant in French, and now it’s virtually all gone, replaced with rude Mexican slang.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
      1. Bea dM

        you’re on! but so we stay private, please send me your ID through my blog “contact” page? I just realised you can give me a bit to basic practice in German too ! looking forward 🙂

        Like

      2. Bea dM

        I realized my contact page doesn’t work 😦 trying to figure why, but in the meantime do you have any ideas? I’m in all-day training, won’t be back till evening…

        Like

      3. ladyofthecakes Post author

        No worries. If you put my name (Simone Baroke) into skype contact search, you will find me. Your search may come back with two result, they are both moi, so just send a contact request to both of them. Happy training day 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Aisha Abdelhamid

    lmao! you nailed my miserable experience trying to learn arabic, LadyCakes! 15 years married to an Egyptian and I still hate hate HATE to speak arabic… lol don’t get me started, I’m sure it won’t be as hilarious as this great post! I now have a live-in arabic teacher but I’m great at putting her off with any excuse I can get away with (eg: “let’s go bake a chocolate cake, instead, ok?”)… she’s a native french speaker, so if you need any extra help I’ll push her your way, it would be a great relief, believe me! ❤ ❤ ❤ ;^)

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
      1. LadyButterfly

        I really don’t understand that stuff with poems ….It seems a bit strange, isn’t it?
        – and there’s no gazpacho in your head, I’m sure it’s all about her teaching ^^ –
        Tell me how you feel after your lesson (what you’ve been learning, etc….- I’ll try to help)

        Like

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