I'm a bit of a musical hummingbird. I'll bounce from channel to channel on my Sirius radio all day if I get the chance. Or I'll sit on one station for hours. But chances are good, unless it's oldies it's stuff no one else likes. I must admit, I'm a bit of a hipster that way. I like weird things until other people like them. Then they suck
Recently I've been hanging out in Espace Musique which is a great French music station. It's hard to describe, but it's very melodious, kinda poppy, kinda retro, kinda like stuff you'd hear in hip indie movies. But the best thing about it is that it's not in English. No insipid lyrics to piss me off or get stuck in my head. (Other than Sukiyaki, I think most foreign language songs are pretty hard to "ear-worm")
But today I found myself half wishing I knew more than every 8th word or so.
I wish I'd paid attention in French Class. I thought.... but wait... that's not right... I wish I learned anything in my French Class.
When I was about 10 or 11 I decided that I really liked French stuff. Don't ask me why. I was just a young silly Francophile. I even went to a summer camp at the local community college to learn French stuff. We sang songs "Napoléon avait cinq cent soldats..." ate Nutella and learned to count to ten.
In middle school we had to take Spanish. I didn't like Spanish and our teacher looked like a naugahyde chew toy with a blond wig. But I knew that in high school I'd be able to return to my true Romance Language love.
My high school had Spanish, Latin and French classes with a teacher designated for each. Our French teacher was Madame Goldberg. She was the only Jewish teacher (that I knew of) in my very Irish Catholic school. Her parents had fled France with her to come to America before the Nazi's moved in. She was a sweet old lady who loved me from the moment I told her that I'd "studied" French before and even knew my French name was Guillaume.
She was also battier than a vampire convention.
The other kids in my class picked up on this weakness instantly and set about exploiting the living hell out of it. No one even attempted to speak the recitations properly. An entire room full of kids speaking monotone Jersey French. It was awful. Everyone took to calling her M'Damn. We'd say "I have to go to M'Damn class now."
One girl in particular was the evil ring-leader of disrespect and awfulness. I forget her real name now (and I'm too lazy to go get my yearbook) but she'd already failed the class her Freshman year and was retaking it as a Sophomore, putting her ahead of the rest of the class and elevating her to a position of power simply based on her seniority. I'm pretty certain she's the first person I ever met that I would classify as an "Effing C."
She would derail every class. "M'Damn, let's sing a song! M'Damn, I don't get it! M'Damn! M'Damn! M'Damn!" During tests she'd leave her book open in her bag next to her desk and copy answers. When that stopped working and M'Damn had us put our bags in the back of the room her pen would "run out of ink" and she'd go back to her bag every two minutes. When that stopped working she'd just cry.
Speaking of crying, one day M'Damn broke down in front of the class talking about how hard it was that everyone she grew up with in France had died in the Hollocaust!!! The Effing C spent the next few weeks asking inane questions about the war in hopes of getting a repeat performance and maybe a reprieve from learning.
If I remember correctly she finally got caught cheating by writing the answers on her thighs just above the hem of her skirt. How that was what did it, I'll never know. She cried a lot and pleaded, but, in a moment of clarity Madam booted her out of the class.
One day towards the end of my second year, a fella in another class somehow got his hands on M'Damn's grade book. He changed his grades and those of a few of his friends. He got caught. To hear him tell the story he was then "Asked to leave the school, under a cloud." M'Damn knew then she had no control over her class. I believe she was asked to leave, just behind the cloud.
After forcing myself through 2 years of not learning French, I told my mom I didn't want to take it any more. She tried to give me this line about how "Some colleges expect you to take 3 years of a language."
"Well, I'm not going to those colleges." Was my reply. It seemed to work.
That next year there was a new French teacher. And all the students who were expected to know 2 years worth of conjugation going into French 3 suddenly found themselves lost in a sea of je/tu/vous/nous.
So, I still don't know any useful French, but I know enough to enjoy my new favorite radio station. Good enough for me.