Someone had asked me a few weeks ago how long I’d been studying French and I casually responded eleven years. And then it dawned on me that it’s been ELEVEN YEARS. That’s the longest commitment of my entire life that I never intended to make. Now I couldn’t tell you the exact day that French asserted itself into my life. Regardless, I decided why not reflect with all of you on the journey that has led me to creating this blog?

The best and only place to start this story would be in grade 4 when the school I went to introduced Spanish classes. Recounting this part of the story makes me sigh behind my keyboard because I’m reminded of how much of a trainwreck the entire experience was. Our teacher was from either Venezuela or Colombia. I can’t say with certainty whether she was told that we had previously been exposed to Spanish or whether she made that assumption herself. Either version of events had coloured her lessons with my class. She never taught us the basics of the language such as the alphabet or numbers. No, she started us off with conjugation, which my ten year old self had no understanding that that was what she was trying to teach me. My formative years of watching Dora the Explorer did not prepare me for conjugation. Which brings me to the other reason this experience was a disaster: our teacher barely spoke English. Again, I can’t say for certainty whether her English was lacking or if she was attempting an immersion-style setting, but all it did was confuse me. Every class was a game of charades and when I asked for some clarity all I got was more charades. And this method of teaching continued for two years. One time she even had the audacity to assign an essay. After learning no nouns, adjectives or basic comprehension of verbs or conjugation, she wanted an essay. My dear readers, I am proud to say a decade later, that she received an essay that was not written by me.

Let’s fast forward, shall we? After what I can accurately describe as a dumpster fire of an experience, suffice it to say I was turned off of the Spanish language. When I started high school, my school required us to study either Spanish or French for the first three years. You can guess what I chose and why. I knew I had to make French work for me as best as I could. And there’s not much more to say other than I liked it and I was good at it. French gave me some of my best memories of high school. There was the time my team won the Concours de Vocabulaire, put on by the Jamaica Association of French Teachers (JAFT) – a victory that I’m still proud of and have the medal for. And my school trip to Quebec where I hardly spoke French. It was enjoying it and doing well at it that made me choose to do French at CSEC.

Afterwards I decided to do CAPE French in sixth form. Doing a language at CAPE meant one of two things; either you love the language or you hate yourself. I consider myself a jovial breed of both creatures. CAPE French also meant reduced class sizes, because hardly anybody studied a language at CAPE and even less of them studied French. Case in point, my class in grade 12 had about 15 people. It shrunk to 7 or 8 people in grade 13. At this juncture, I think I still liked French but I became extremely lazy. I’ll chalk this up to post-CSEC burnout. I vividly remember sleeping in or skipping class, not doing the homework or reading the books and overall giving the teacher a hard time. Somehow, through all of that I managed to do fairly well in both units, so imagine if I applied myself. If you’re reading this and doing CAPE French, please don’t follow my example. And if you’re my CAPE French teacher, I’m sorry I never appreciated your efforts until now.

Brief recap: for my entire seven-year high school career I had studied French. I even did the DELF B1 exam (and passed) at the end of high school. I could’ve stopped at anytime during those seven years but didn’t. However, I never realized how attached I was to French until I finished high school and acknowledged that after having it in my life for so long, French was not something I wanted to live without. Which led to me finding a teacher (who I still work with) and passing the DELF B2 exam last year. After high school I can say I became a much better student. When you’re in school, there’s a class schedule and teachers who feed you the information with minimal effort on your part. And man, was I teacher dependent. Now that I do private lessons and my French teacher is more of a facilitator, my learning and progress is mostly dependant on the amount of effort I put in. As a result, I began to appreciate the language more. Plus, who would willingly put themselves through a decade of language learning without loving it?

And eleven years after failing to learn Spanish, I channeled my Francophile energy into starting this blog for people like me, who have an interest in French and a story. The journey is far from over for me: I plan to do the DALF exams next year and then who knows. I just hope that French is a lifelong love of mine.

In the comments feel free to share what your French journey has been like. Where did it start, where are you now and where do you want to go?