French Language Blog

Je blogue, donc je suis: New Blogger at Transparent! Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

Il faut remonter le score, eh, Josh?” (You need to raise your score, eh, Josh?)


I can still remember my French teacher, Annick, making this remark to me during a game of Scrabble against a fellow classmate. I’m not sure what made this little sentence of seven words such an impetus, but something inside me told me it was imperative to win.

My first real exposure to French began in 9th grade. I had an open slot in my schedule to fill, and there were only three options for that window. The only one that sounded even vaguely intéressant (interesting) was French. I had never wanted to take a foreign language class because I was afraid of not understanding some complex concept that would only hinder further understanding and steadily reduce my GPA. Quelle horreur (how awful)!

All of that angoisse (fear/anxiety) was brushed aside on the first day of class. My teacher was this nutty old woman who, despite her many distractions, was able to keep me engaged. She spoke to us with such easy and florid passages that I was just sucked right in (even if I had no idea what she was saying). We touched on a little French, and I grasped the basics in no time. Even with just les notions (in this context, the basics of a language), you can still communicate. As the semester continued, I took a deeper interest in the language. I became interested in the syntax, the phonetics, the pragmatics, and the morphology. Granted I wasn’t able to expend much of these features with such a bounded knowledge of the language, but I was fully determined to master these ideas one day.

During my third year of French, I decided I’d spend some time in France to get an extra boost on my language skills. I found un boulot (a job) and earned enough to cover the tuition for a month-long stay in a school in Cannes on the French Riviera. The school was beautiful. The building was an old hospital, and between the dorms and the classrooms was a large, very well kempt courtyard (and where I learned the difference between une cour and un cours. Do you know the difference?). The school had maybe 150 students from all over the world – not too many, but just enough to recognize the same faces daily. The best part was that we all had the same goal: to learn French.

One day, because we’d finished our worksheets early and because there were only two of us, Annick allowed us to play a game of Scrabble. I had no intention of winning – I was just playing to pass time until class was over. I had no problem placing down small-scoring words like “en” and “chat” while she placed words like “lorsque” and “yeux.” At one point, Manuella was severely ahead of me, and Annick made the little commentary ‘Il faut remonter le score, eh, Josh?’  Something ignited inside and it was at this point I realized that I was literate enough in French to dominate this game. I put on my game face and slammed down essential letters on the double and triple word spots. In the end, her runaway game was put to a halt when I beat her by quite a few points. This particular game helped me discover that French is definitely something I wanted to use in my career. It showed me that I would hold back too much on things I might be good at and enjoy, and that having the drive to finish it could end in a pleasant result.

Back in the States, high school graduation came, and that fall I went to college. Et ma spécialisation? (and my major?) Le français, bien sûr! (French, of course!). There, I was able to get a better understanding of French civilization dating back to the time of the Gauls. I got to express myself through essays based off classic literature. I started to get a feel for that terrible subjunctive. And in my junior year, I spent 9 months in Angers, France.  I was able to use my French everyday and got my first taste of literary translation.  Unfortunately (fortunately?), in the second semester, I got to experience another major part of French culture: la grève (strike). There weren’t many classes that semester because of the education strike, so I was able to travel all around France and fall even more in love.

After I graduated, I decided to go immediately to graduate school to continue my studies in French. This was most exciting for me because I would finally be able to teach this language to the undergraduate students. It’s different from the other end, and I’m excited to share some of what I’ve learned as a teacher to help those learning the language.

In my first year as a graduate student, I won une bourse (a scholarship) to spend another year in France. This time, I chose Avignon and did the first year of a Master’s program in FLE (Français Langue Étrangère) , a program designed for teaching French. Each time I go to France, I discover more and more that makes me want to stay there, and this time was no exception.

After that year, I went back to the States to finish my original Master’s degree. That year, I taught language through la poésie (poetry), les contes de fées (fairy tales), les légendes (legends), les films (movies), les contes africains (African tales), and des quêtes (quests). I hope to be able to share some of these fun stories with you.

Bref: Je m’appelle Josh. Enchanté.

And that’s how a simple game of Scrabble sealed my fate. What’s your story with French? How did you get started?

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About the Author: Josh Dougherty

Just your typical francophile. If you have any topics you'd like me to discuss, feel free to let me know!