College Life, My Kind of Average

Eight Tips for Surviving French Class

I know you’re probably tired of hearing about what all went on over the past few months of my life, so I’ve resolved not to mention the word “summer” in this post. Oops. That one doesn’t count.

Instead, I thought I’d talk about something I’m currently dealing with: French Class. Apparently, at my school,  in order to earn a degree in English you practically have to be fluent in a foreign language. That means I’ve got four total semesters of French to pass. I started Round #3 a  couple of weeks ago. Can’t you just feel my excitement leaping off your screen?

It’s not that I don’t like French necessarily, it’s just that it’s hard. I’m not one of those people who are naturally inclined to acquire another language. Plus, the homework for this class takes so much time, so much effort, and so much will-power against using an online translator. Additionally, learning the material is one thing; remembering and applying it is another.

So those are the not-so-pleasant parts of being a French student. However, I have learned much more over the past couple of semesters than just what’s written in the textbook (we shall refrain from a discussion of how pricey learning a foreign language can be).

Below, I’ve compiled a list of lessons I’ve learned while in French class. All of these actually happened, and they actually happened to me with the exception of #6, but that one’s just too invaluable to pass up.

Examiner les leçons suivantes:

1) Know that your name is pronounced differently in French. You do not want to be caught looking blankly in the direction of your professor when she is calling on you to answer a question. And you do not want to take three weeks to learn this.

2) Practice making the French “r” sound, but only when in private. Otherwise you’ll get strange looks and/or terrify your mom’s cat. Poor guy ran out of the room so fast. I must’ve said something really unkind in kitty language.

3) When your teacher asks your age (in French, of course), don’t tell her you’re sixty-five. She won’t buy it and your fellow classmates will laugh at your blunder. (For those who can count in French, I know dix-neuf and soixante-cinq sound nothing alike. I misunderstood the question, okay?)

4)When answering a test question, don’t confuse the word “bed” (lit) with the word “book” (livre). Why? Because it just makes things awkward, that’s why. But on the bright side, if you make this mistake correctly (that’s an oxymoron, and yet I somehow managed to achieve this) your professor will take pity on you and not deduct points.

5)Do not tell your teacher (in French and in front of the whole class) that you are not a dog. If you do, she will kindly respond in English (when a professor speaks English to you during class, it’s kind of demeaning and makes you feel childish), “I know you are not. I was asking if you have a dog.” Oh. Well in that case, no, I do not have a dog.

6) This is the only one that’s not me—I was, however, a witness to this–but I thought it was too important not to share: Do not assume that just because the textbook focuses more attention on the grammar aspect of the language, it means you “lucked out” and don’t have to learn new vocabulary. In the words of my professor when she was responding to my classmate’s statement, “You can’t speak a whole language when you only know 100 words.” I might add that she said this in English.

7) Do not recommend a French song based solely on its catchy tune. Translate the lyrics first. The time spent doing this will avoid great discomfort later on.

8) It honestly helps if you have a great professor. I’ve had two so far and they are both excellent. The one I have now actually typed “LOL” in an email she sent out to the class. She’s cool.

So there you have it. Eight very valuable tips you must keep in mind if you are to succeed in French class. Rest assured, they are all tried and true. I’m sure by the time this semester and the next one are completed, a couple of things will take place:

a) I will be able to dramatically increase this list of tips.

b) I will know and sing every word of the Hallelujah Chorus. Maybe even in French.

La vie est belle, n’est-ce pas?

P.S. As an added bonus, here’s a brief conversation I had with my professor before class one day last week. I put it on Facebook, but I’m still pondering it:

Professor: Were you at a concert Saturday night?
Me: No.
Professor: Oh. I thought I saw you, so I was hiding.

You know what? Despite the hardships that accompany trying to master the French language, I love that class. I mean, j’aime cette classe.

– Anna


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