“You are just guessing now,” MB says. “You aren’t even attempting to work it out in your head.”
“No, I’m stupid, obviously. Just stop trying to teach me; it’s pointless.”
MB is rolling his eyes at me. “Eh,” he says to me, giving me a no-nonsense stare (like that’s gonna work). “Come on, it takes practice! You just have to keep going until you get it.”
“I’m never going to get it,” I say defiantly. “It’s impossible for my stupid, stupid brain.” I’m pouting now and possibly on the verge of a temper tantrum.
“You are not even trying to learn it,” MB says like a lecturing school teacher.
“I can’t learn it; I’m too dumb. Aren’t you listening?” And the sarcasm monster has been unleashed.
“Of course you can, you just won’t pay attention.”
This comment is selectively ignored.
“You don’t understand; my brain doesn’t comprehend this type of stuff. It’s just like math!” I’ve now morphed into “math is hard” Barbie.
“You must have been horrible to tutor,” MB says with aplomb.
I am outraged.
“What?! NO, I was awesome.” I was terrible. (This entire conversation is an example of the primary tactic I employed throughout high school: annoy your tutor until they are too exhausted to fight anymore. This is probably why I am still incompetent at algebra.)
MB gives me a look.
I cock my head to the side innocently, “quoi,” I say sarcastically with a shrug.
MB gives me another look but says nothing. Clearly, he is waiting for me to simmer down and be reasonable.
Right, like that is going to happen.
7 seconds have passed and MB still hasn’t said anything.
It’s all I can handle. Silence is my kryptonite.
“Fine, fine, fine, I’ll calm down and really try,” I say. “But seriously, I feel like I’m studying statistics,”
“No,” MB responds, “statistics makes sense.”
For the past week, in my French course, we have been focusing on relative pronouns, “pronoms relatif simples: que, qui, où, dont” (I find the whole “simples” description to really just be a slap in the face), or as I like to call them: “jerkfaces”. These are handy little words in French that are used to link the dependent clause with the main clause in a sentence by replacing the subject or the direct object (I can barely even understand what I just wrote).
Ex: I ate the apples. You bought the apples. (Je mange les pommes. Tu acheté les pommes.)
àI ate the apples that you bought. (Je mange les pommes que tu as achetées.) “THAT” or “QUE” would be the “jerkface”…or the pronom relatif simple.
This seems pretty straight-forward, right? HA! Mais non, mon petit! From here on out it becomes increasingly convoluted (I mean, this is France after all). I could try to explain it but then again if I could properly explain it I wouldn’t be writing this.*
Every exercise I have done this week has made me feel increasingly idiotic. After translating the sentence (which can take me quite a while), I then have to break down and analyze the sentence. Then I have to sort out which pronoun to use and every single pronoun has a myriad of exceptions to their general rules, which is awesome…except the opposite of that. The teacher expects me to manage this in the amount of time that it takes for me to read the sentence once so really, it just comes down to the luck of the draw.
“Okay,” I think, as the teacher goes around the room doling out questions. ”I’m going to get #5. Do I have that right?”
I never have it right. I usually have the question before it and after it right but never the question that I have to read out loud. So I answer with my random guess that I have written down and the teacher gives me that sad, frustrated look of disappointment.
The only thing that has kept me sane the past few days has been the reassurance from MB and my French friends that French grammar is exceedingly complicated (although why it is reassuring to have a native speaker tell you it is really difficult, I’m not sure). At least I know I’m not the only one. I will continue to persevere as so many Anglos have done before me and eventually I’m sure that I will comprehend when to use “dont” over “que”. Until then, it is quite likely that I will continue to throw temper tantrums, constantly have sweaty palms in class, and be subject to a few more silent treatments.
*If you are curious, here is a brief and incomplete explanation: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/relativepronouns.htm. If you feel confident after reading this explanation, try this quiz: http://french.about.com/library/weekly/aa092799t.htm. Let me know how that whole “dont” thing works out for ya.