I took French for six years, spread out over high school and college. I knew I wanted to take French more than any other foreign language from about the age of 12 or so. Somewhere, something had given me the idea that French was the most beautiful, romantic language I could learn because Paris was the most beautiful, romantic location. I have to say, 12-year-old me was quite wise. Paris is both romantic and beautiful!
I loved studying the language. Speaking it, reading it, and understanding it came very easily to me. I rocked a great accent (thanks to my hyper yet amazing teacher Monsieur Hardy) and I was an officer in French Club. I went to a French competition and placed in both poetry reading and singing. I was hardcore and I adored it.
Before our trip to Paris, I reviewed some vocabulary and felt pretty comfortable with my basic skills. I really had no trouble when we were there. I was able to communicate clearly and get us around the city, order food, shop, and navigate the streets, train, and Metro. Even so, I found myself missing the fluency I used to have. I have forgotten more rules and more vocabulary than I remember at this point. When I would pause briefly to consider my response in French, people would automatically switch to English. I know they were trying to be accommodating, which I appreciate so much! We had an amazing experience as tourists and the only rude people we encountered were, sadly, other Americans. I just felt disappointed in myself…both for not visiting that magical place sooner in my life, and for letting my French muscles get so lax. My Parisian professor from SMU would be so disappointed in me. I was the only student in my class she ever praised.
All this has renewed my passion for continuing to learn the language. I have Rosetta Stone, and I was recently introduced to Livemocha, an online learning site. I also have a sweet new friend who is quite fluent in French who has offered to meet me for some conversation en français…the former owner of Esme, in fact! I can’t wait to relearn what I’ve forgotten, and maybe surpass my previous skill levels someday.