Tuesday, November 25, 2008


One of Hal's friends had an oral exam in his French class today. When Hal told me about it, I had a flashback.

I took French for two years in college. We had to take a language at the college level for two years (4 semesters) in certain colleges. I decided to take French because it "sounded pretty." I was sick of Latin, which I took for 3 years in high school (even though I was told I could start in second year Latin), and my mom told me not to take Russian because I should stick with the same alphabet.

I was terrible at French. Well, I was okay at the reading part, but terrible at the speaking part.

I had flubbed up other assignments for my beloved teacher, who I had for three out of my four semesters. A memorable assignment was a first semester in-class essay letter to Santa during which I lost all French nouns except the words for Chicken and Ham. "Dear Santa -- I want chicken for Christmas. I love chicken. I hate ham. My mom always makes ham. She makes a lot of ham. She never makes chicken. But I love chicken. Please give me chicken. I like it more than ham. I want Mom to make chicken. She doesn't like chicken. (and so on)

I signed the essay by saying "Thank you." But I spelled it wrong. Instead of Merci, I wrote "Mercy," which was probably a subconscious way of pleading with my beloved teaching for a decent grade.

And then we had the oral exam. The oral exam was much scarier than the in-class Santa debacle of 2000. I think this was sometime in my second semester.

During this oral exam, we had to read a passage in French and then answer questions about the passage and also about ourselves. In French, of course, because that was the point. I was nervous and shaky. I didn't speak very well.

I went in to my exam and read the passage. I sat facing my beloved teacher and her friend who was co-grading the exam. It started out okay.

Then they threw me a doozie.

They asked me in French, "Where do you work?"

I thought for a moment and replied, "I work in a bank." I did not, in fact, work in a bank, but we did not have to be truthful and I remembered the word for bank.

My professor and her assistant looked at each other.

They asked me again, in French, "Where --- do --- you --- work?"

I responded slowly, "I. Work. In. A. Bank."

My beloved teacher shook her head (or perhaps I just imagined this), and they went on to another question.

After the exam, I understood my mistake.

They didn't ask me where I worked after all. It wasn't my diction that confounded them, it was my answer.

They had asked me what country I would like to visit.


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