Did you know that I took three years of French in high school? Three years is a long time, right?
So how “fluent” am I in French, and why did I not stick with it?
I was in eighth grade when I took my first French class, an elective. Whereas most of my peers had signed up for Spanish, the obvious practical choice to fulfill the foreign language requirement, I was doing my thing, treading a different path.
Looking back, I should’ve been in the eighth grade Spanish class instead — and not necessarily because I have regrets about not learning a more “useful language.” The problem with my first French class, and the one thereafter (French II), was that the teacher didn’t have a good handle on the students. More time was spent dealing with disciplinary issues than with teaching French.
Because of my dad’s work, I changed schools prior to my sophomore year in high school, so I started French III under the instruction of a new teacher and with a new set of peers. The class was small — I think six students total — and much more intimate than I felt comfortable with, considering my lagging French skills. I didn’t want to hold myself back, repeat French II, and lose any credits, so I suffered through French III. I even managed to get an A although that grade is certainly no indication of any level of actual achievement or fluency.
Fast forward to a few years when I was taking placement classes for the University of Arkansas. I remember being in a computer lab on campus the summer before my freshman year in college and thinking to myself, ‘Yeah, I don’t know any of the answers to this French test.’ Needless to say, I didn’t even qualify for the second level of college French. They wanted me to start at square one.
So I decided to start at square one…with German. I had an awesome first semester of German but then changed my major to one that didn’t require a foreign language, so I dropped out after that. Is that a regret? Yes. Am I making up for it now? Sure thing.
Someday I might get back to French, but I don’t dream of becoming a polyglot. For me, one language feels like enough, at least at this point in my life.