So I’m lying in my bed in my flat, with ‘Gad Elmalah: Part en Live’ playing on my TV in the background. I was trying to convince myself to do some French before my translation exam next Wednesday, but accidentally (lol) clicked on Netflix instead. When the promo glaring at me was French, I decided it was a sign and chose to put it on (it’s actually very funny and this article is nothing against Gad).
My girlfriend also just came to see me after her first ever French lesson. She was super excited about having learnt the ten or so sentences she did and as I was helping her recite the verb ‘être’, I got surges of excitement with every answer she got right. It reminded me of how rewarding and incredible learning new things in languages is – and especially how I’ve left Italian at a spot right where I was just able to make conversation and the month of Spanish which I’ve left behind.
My prolonging of Italian and Spanish is a result of several things; trying to focus on university, deciding which one I want to commit more time to, realising I’m currently not willing to commit a certain amount of hours a week with everything else I’ve got on, but sadly the biggest reason is because I’m being forced to focus on French.
Anyway, once my girlfriend left, I opened my laptop excitedly ready to translate an article available on my university site that holds all our work, ‘Moodle’. However, I instantly got discouraged. Perhaps it was because, if I’m not entirely lying to myself, because the sentences looked hard. Yet on second thought, they didn’t look hard in the sense that I wouldn’t know how to translate them; if I was having a natural conversation with someone French, I’d be able to come up with two or three different ways of using a similar sentence. It looked hard because I don’t know what the lecturer wants from the translation.
How sad is that? My excitement for this language that I’d loved for so long isn’t there when I look at a French sentence anymore. If I see something in the street or on my Facebook now, I just read it, similar to the way I’d read English. Yet, the way the university provide sentences to me just isn’t exciting at all because it’s impossible to get it to the level they want, in highly journalistic vocab. Nothing I’m being taught in university is exciting me or making me want to even look at the French language. This is the problem that I have with the way my university are teaching French right now. We’re being taught to translate these stale, political journalistic articles from newspapers we have to pay to access, and for what?
On my last translation, French to English (easily the easiest out of the three we have to do throughout the year) I got a C1. A C1!!!! Yet I can move to France (twice!), get an apartment, a job, and a handful of friends within a week. I can talk to a French person for four hours with few problems. I can read a classical French novel, French poetry, or a modern, French, Young Adult novel. I can identify accents from across France and when a foreigner speaks. I can watch French (or French-Canadian, Moroccan…) comedians and laugh at cultural jokes. Yet I can’t translate your journalist article to a good standard. Who’s fault do you think this is?
To prove the point just a little bit more, I got a B1 in my speaking exam. I walked out of that exam knowing I’d done nowhere near as good as I could. I understood every single word, phrase and structure that I heard, and I took my time to perfect my French accent of the day so that I was umming and ahhing. Yet, I was being asked questions like “Comment est-ce que les gouvernements du Royaume Uni et la France marche ensemble pour résoudre la crise à Calais?” (How can the British and the French government work together to solve the Calais crisis). I’m SURE that if the governments had thought of such an idea, there would be action on that. How am I supposed to show you my best French skills with a question like that?!??!
I know that this isn’t my passion for learning languages disappearing. I sometimes sit for hours looking at new languages, listening to songs, analysing subtitles on Netflix programs. I have no problem sitting down to do an hours Spanish or Italian. I have a problem with French – and I don’t know how to fix it.
Anyway, I’m ranting now. But I suppose that’s why jesuispascool exists.
À bientôt !