Colour Me Confused

Land of Confusion

Which subject in school did you find impossible to master? Did math give you hives? Did English make you scream? Do tell!

Secondary school was a bit difficult for me, in terms of juggling twenty-something subjects – there just weren’t enough hours in the day. If it didn’t come easily, I didn’t have the time for it. It should have been the opposite but allow me to explain.

I remember being really excited to learn Spanish before I started going to ‘big school’, so much so that I started studying it on my own from a copy of Viva! that was lying around my Standard 5 classroom. Apparently, that was the best idea I have ever had in my life as it gave me a head start for what was to come in Spanish classes.

Nobody told me I was also going to have to learn French so I never bothered to do the same with it. In fact, if I’m being honest, I was never interested in French the way Spanish piqued my interest. It just didn’t seem as important.

The first three years at high school were a nightmare in French class. I just didn’t get it the way I got Spanish and it’s obvious why. Spanish is a no brainer as far as pronunciation is concerned. Once you learn the sounds each letter makes you can read anything. French on the other hand …. Not so much.

My biggest problem with French had always been that there were too many extra letters in words. Why are they there? I remember learning to conjugate “parler”. My teacher wrote the verb table on the board:

je parle — tu parles — il/elle/on parle

nous parlons —- vous parlez —- ils/elles parlent

Okay, simple enough.

Then she said it.

If you know a bit of French, you know that four of those words sound exactly the same. Usually in language learning I’m the kind of student that just learns things off but French pronunciation just would not stick.

Over those three years my French grades steadily dropped from a solid 89% in the first term of studying it to a not so cute 69%. I remember being so frustrated in that final exam in the third semester of Form 3 that I wrote English on the paper because my teacher had a strict ‘leave no blank spaces’ policy.

Fast forward seven years and I decided that I should give French a go again. A phonetics course and a cancelled intermediate Portuguese class were to blame for the sudden desire to tame the beast.

Needless to say, I get it now. All the teachers I’ve had have commended my pronunciation but my biggest problem now is remembering vocabulary and making conversation.

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