The Old Woman without a Clue

I’ve been taking yet another French Intensif Course, this time at the University, and until today it has been an exercise in humiliation.  Everyone in the class is about 12 years old 20 years old and have been studying French for anywhere from 2 to 8 semesters.  They can reel off subjunctives and infinitives like it’s nothing.  When we had a session in which we described Fairy Tales, they were flawlessly reciting the plots to the Lion King*, Cinderella, and Pinnochio…and then there was me, the old lady without a clue (har har).  I could get the words out but not the correct grammar.

It’s been like this almost every day of class.  They run circles around me with their freshly reviewed grammatical wisdom and I just sit there jaw-open still trying to translate the sentence that I am supposed to be deconstructing.  I can feel their pity.  I can feel the shiver that runs down their spine as they think “god after a year and a half shouldn’t she be better than this?”  Wait, is that their thoughts or my internal dialogue?

It makes me want to challenge them all to a Dewey Decimal System duel – who’s the smart one now, suckas? (Hmmm…yeah, probably still the people that are familiar with today’s cataloging system…damn’t).

However, this morning I had an epiphany; I realized that while I may struggle with grammar, both domestic and foreign (much to my grammar-teaching Mother’s chagrin), I’ve got practical knowledge.  Today the teacher asked questions about France…the regions, the cuisines, the restaurants in town…FINALLY, I had some answers.  When it comes to talking about food or travel I am magically fluent instead of stuttering and stumbling across silent suffixes.  I may not have fluent French even after a year and a half but I have fluent knowledge (does that even make sense…don’t care, I’m going with it); I know my city and my region, I know great places to visit around the country and tips and tricks on where to stay and what to do, I know the different regional accents and attitudes, I know the distinctive body language of a Parisian.  Pfffff….

So, I may not be fluent in French but I’m starting to become fluent in France and at the end of the day, I reckon that’s worth a lot more than a past participle.

*clearly an all time classic fairy tale, right millennials, right?



  1. Aaah I feel your pain! At least you are brave enough to take classes. I can’t even manage that yet! I agree too – better to be fluent in France than French 🙂



  2. I’m starting German and know your pain — everyone seems to be way more ahead of me (in the two whole weeks I’ve had class). Yet I know more about German culture/history, so it’s evened out. A bit.

    I’d still rather be studying French…



    1. oh no, I like my Uni classes and they are definitely helping me – I need to learn my grammar! It is just funny being in the class with all these youngies who have been studying the grammar for ages but have no practical knowledge! 🙂



  3. I’d agree with you about one thing; you’ll never be absolutely sure what’s going on in the minds of the French, especially if you are American. How are you doing on their idiomatic expressions? Try mixing them with your practical knowledge and you may have a ‘killer app.”



    1. Oh Whitt, I am pathetic with the idiomatics…in fact, anything that isn’t standard textbook structure tends to lose me, let alone tricky wording. I’ve got a long way to go but I’m hoping watching “Friends” or other silly TV shows in French will help me with some more natural ways of speaking. SIGH – I’ll get there!



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