I’ve been studying French for seven years. I’ve rarely worked as hard at anything in my life. I’ve taken private lessons from two gifted and patient French teachers; I practice one to two hours dailyon websites like Duolingo, Yabla, and French-Kwiziq; I’ve visited Paris, Bordeaux, and Provence; I’ve watched countless French movies, cartoons, and online tutorials; I’ve read dozens of French books and listened to a few hundred French songs, with and without subtitles.
You’re probably thinking I must be fairly fluent by now, right? Well, judge for yourself. Below is an English translation of a conversation I recently had with a native French speaker.
Simon: Good morning, Bart, how are you today?
Bart: Good morning, Simon, not bad.
Simon: Did you sleep well last night?
Bart: Yes, thank you, the sky is very pleasant yesterday.
Simon: You mean today, right? You said yesterday.
Bart: Shit, that’s not what I meant. Yesterday my car was raining. Today the sun is greasy.
Simon: Uh, ok, how about we switch to English?
Bart: It was nice to have you, too. Bye!
Seriously, my French is horrifying. If you don’t believe me, just ask Simon why he immediately reached for the wine bottle when I started speaking. The only reason I don’t give up is because I’m a masochist and I derive great satisfaction from feeling like an idiot.
But I love the language. I love the way it sounds. I love its weird fixation with gender, and how it makes no sense whatsoever to English speakers. Tables and doors are feminine, couches and sinks are masculine. Arms, hands, and feet are masculine, but legs and teeth are feminine. Beards are feminine. Vaginas are masculine. Go figure.
And don’t even get me started on sentence structure. The literal translation of “Are you going to get up soon?” Is “Going you soon you to get up?”
Moral of the story: Don’t learn French unless you enjoy pain and humiliation.