This summer, I did a lot of things. I worked as a hostess at a local chain restaurant, I interned at a local political campaign, I spent some quality family time in scenic Moose Junction, Wyo., and I discovered the single greatest television show to ever air on basic cable: “Storage Wars” on A&E.

Before any of these opportunities presented themselves, however, I, in the throes of early-summer boredom, tasked myself with a few serious challenges. These ranged from (working out three times a week) to the brainy (finishing a book a week for the entire summer). But then I challenged myself to the ultimate task: I decided to start teaching myself French. This decision elicited many different types of responses, ranging from disbelief, to encouragement, to mock anger for not learning Italian. Still, I was determined to learn the language of the Impressionists and the City of Light. By my fourth day back in California (I get bored quickly), I had gotten my hands on Rosetta Stone French software and had promised a commitment of at least 45 minutes of dedicated study each day for the entire summer.

Going into this endeavor, I thought I knew the process for learning a foreign language. I had taken Spanish classes in school from first to11th grade and finished up my carerra de espanol with the AP Language exam and the SAT Subject Test, both of which excused me from the Georgetown College language requirement when I arrived on the Hilltop. I thought I knew what to expect. I would learn the conjugations, I would learn the verbs, I would learn the vocabulary and I would be set! It would be easy! I’d be arguing foreign policy with attractive Frenchmen in no time!
I was so wrong. I should have realized far sooner that Rosetta Stone, which is designed for busy professional adults, would take a different approach to language learning than the San Diego Unified School District, which is designed for stupid pubertal teens. Instead of learning anything practical, I found myself diligently learning how to say phrases like “Is this your hat?” and “The women eat white rice,” along with my personal favorite, “The cat is in the shoe.”

The best part this method were the accompanying scenes, since Rosetta Stone teaches through matching vocabulary to images. Nothing made me laugh harder this summer than the images of very concerned women talking while holding feathered hats. After almost two entire months of dedicated study, I finally had learned how to string together a few declarative, present-tense sentences. Je m’appelle NicoleJ’ai dix-neuf ansJe suis des États-Unis. All rather useful, I suppose.

Then, it happened. My family vacation. A blissful week of time away with my family in Wyoming, with little to no Wi-Fi and even less of an opportunity to slip away to stare stupidly at my computer screen and loudly attempt to pronounce l’ordinateur portable and voiture(yes, it turns out laptop and car at the two hardest words for me to pronounce). So I gave myself a vacation from studying, too. It was truly the beginning of the end of my French career. Once we got back to civilization, family came to stay at my house, then, another mini trip to San Francisco. Each trip pushed me further and further away from my goals and closer and closer to an actual summer vacation. Once this flurry of family and travel ended, so did my mission to learn French.

It’s ok, though. I have accepted my ultimate failure at not only this summer assignment, but all of my summer assignments. I stopped working out in July. A Dance with Dragons and Jane Eyre took way more than their allotted week to read, and I didn’t watch “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad.” But now I have a grasp of basic French vocabulary and sentence structure, and I still have the software if I am ever struck by a sudden desire to remember how to say, “The boys do not wear blue ties.” At least I learned how to say, “Parlez-vous anglais?” because we all know that’s all I will ever really need to know.

Nicole Jarvis is a sophomore in the College. PARDON MY FRENCH appears every other Friday in the guide.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*