Forays and Flirtations with French and Other Failed Language Attempts

Recently I have concluded that the appeal of speaking a foreign tongue must have originated for me when I was merely a girl. As, grown out of my fleeting ambitions to be a ballerina, I had a new and more exciting idea of what I wanted to be when I was ‘all grown up’ – A secret agent. This gave rise to my stash of James Bond magazines and collector cards, hiding in my wardrobe pretending to be on a stake out, stealthily spying on my primary school playground ‘enemies’, and my brief year of Taekwondo and self-defense classes in grade six. Also, have you ever watched that 00’s series ‘The Invisible Man’ – I did, religiously – very secret agenty. And apparently, not only do spies disappear from sight on command, they also travel to Russia and speak 8 different languages, but in some sense of irony my attempts at learning one of these languages didn’t eventuate until after my secret agent phase.

(And on completely random side note, can someone please explain the importance of Arnie, in my favourite spy film of all time, True Lies, saying ‘I have to take a major leak’ in perfect Arabic? James Cameron, your choice of subtitles baffles me…)

Attempt Number 1: Spanish

I can’t remember why this was my first choice of a second language. I vaguely recall the CD-ROM  of ‘You Can Learn Spanish’ being on special at Harvey Norman and my mother’s brief turn of wanting to be more cultured. Of Spanish I remember Tia meaning Aunt – mostly because one of my dogs at the time was called Tia…

Attempt Number 2: French – Episode 1 – The Pre World Travel Attempt

My mum and I were about to embark on a world tour, including a visit to Paris and the South of France, I was 16 years old. Afternoons on a weekly basis were spent at a lovely French lady’s house, learning to count and, most importantly, how to buy things. My three other classmates were middle-aged, and I, the lone teenager, whilst grasping the concept of politely asking for apple juice and inviting one for breakfast, felt somewhat out-of-place.  (On another side note, tell me why when learning a language synonymous with love, must there be no potential for romance at all with fellow language learners dues to the age and gender of said learners? I shall ponder this further in French – Episode 2 – The Pre Euro Trip Attempt) This attempt lasted for about 8 weeks. When I returned to Australia let’s just say I was busy saving my money, otherwise spent on French lessons, towards perhaps traveling to Germany.

Attempt Number 3: German

Ich freue mich, Sie kennen zu lernen. Thus completes my working knowledge of Deutsch. Pleased to meet you. Ich heiße Abbey – My name is Abbey. My foray into German was initiated by a close friendship with a foreign exchange student and the promise of visiting her in the future. Unglaubish! Unbelievable! I actually really tried at this one, filling a whole folder with ‘Let’s Learn German’ lessons, not to mention a fairly expensive book on German verbs. ‘Du bist eine Schlampe‘ comprises of most of what I remember. As to the meaning? I’ll give you a clue, I didn’t learn it from a CD-ROM…

Attempt Number 4: French – Episode 2 – The Pre Euro Trip Attempt

For future reference, walking into a classroom semi-confident you remember basic French won’t save you from the embarrassment of being immediately corrected by your teacher when you proudly say something that just so happens to be wrong. Je m’appelle Abbey. My name is Abbey. I knew that, I swear I knew that. Didn’t stop me from saying something else entirely. Curses. That’s what you get for mildly showing off in a beginners, beginners class where the first 2 1/4 hour lesson is spent learning the alphabet. And, of course, as I take my seat and look around my class I see middle-aged men and women and a few girls my age. What is this? Sacrebleu! Je ne comprends pas! I don’t understand. Where is all the talent? On the flip side at least I won’t be distracted from my a, e, i ,o, us by multilingual garçons, but seriously…kind of disappointed. Anyways, hopefully, with lack of said distractions and some steely resolve on my part, this last attempt will stick, and I will soon be versed in a language other than English.

And if it doesn’t stick? Heck, you know what, there’s always an app for that. Hello, Google translate… Now, how do you say ‘I have to take a major leak’ in French?

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2 thoughts on “Forays and Flirtations with French and Other Failed Language Attempts

  1. Nothing compares to being defeated and humiliated by failed attempts at communication in a second language. In Mexico, I once said to my sweet and loving host mother, “no mames,” making her gasp and cover her catholic ears. I meant to express surprise like saying “no way!” I heard this phrase thrown around at school all the time. Turns out it is slang that roughly translates to “blow me.” Hilarious now…devastating at the time.

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