I need to apologise. I lied to you! When I said in my bio that I could speak five languages I wasn’t telling the truth. I deceived you and I deceived myself. I shouldn’t have done it, what I should have said was I’ve had a casual swing with five languages; a drunken one night stand that filled my head with new experiences and ideas, but ended as soon as the sun rose the next day. I know that I’ve lied to you, because I’ve just tried to rekindle the relationship and it’s been a disaster.
Today is the first day of my intensive French language course. Every day for the next two months I will be spending an hour of my life with a French teacher. I will be reading articles in French, translating French and trying to speak French. It is all a part of my plan for my self-improvement strategy, an attempt to delay Alzheimer’s and get those synapses in my brain firing again like a supercharged V8 instead of a rusted VW.
It’s been 15 years since my last conversation in French and almost 20 years since I spoke the language fluently. Sure, in that time I’ve listened to people speak French and I’ve understood most of what they are saying. I’ve got lots of French music (which is not played on an accordion by a man wearing a beret and holding a baguette) that I sing along to and I occasionally watch French films (without the subtitles). All of these facts have left me thinking that I still understand the language, that our relationship is still strong. Today shattered all of those misconceptions.
I thought my first lesson started off well. The first exercise was reading and comprehension. I rattled off the text in a monotone voice, ploughing through the punctuation as if it was an inconvenience. I would have left a public speaking teacher consider committing suicide. That was ok though, I was expecting that. The most important thing was that my pronunciation was still ok and I understood more than 90% of the article. Then disaster struck, I was asked to summarise the article.
Nothing happened when I opened my mouth. The words that had clearly passed through my brain just minutes before might as well have never existed. What flitted through my brain was a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese and Indonesian with the occasional French word thrown in for a bit of company. A two-year-old child could have put the sentences I eventually constructed together.
The next forty minutes of the lesson felt like I was wading through treacle; by the end of the lesson I felt like I could be a pretty convincing extra in a zombie movie. Still I had finished the class and as I sit here writing this article and preparing for tomorrows lesson, I can’t help thinking about how happy I’ll be when Google gets round to inventing the babel fish. In the meantime however, I’m going to go back to attempting to rectify the damage done when I lied to you. Time to start trolling the Internet in French in preparation for tomorrows lesson.