To All the Boys Who Try to Speak French in My Literature Class

I decided to become a English-Film major after having one positive experience in a rocks-for-jocks-like poetry course where you received an A for showing up. Heavily inspired by both my grade and the poetry material, I jumped into the world of literature and decided it was for me. 

Moving into registration for the fall semester, I wanted to take an English course that would challenge me and allow me to really learn, but one that felt attainable for a sophomore like myself to do well in. I did not realize when I signed up for the 19th Century European Novel that my challenge would not be the texts, but instead, the individuals in the class who feel the need to prove to the class that they took elementary level French.

I lied: the reading is hard and very heavy, but that’s not the point.

The people in my French class feel that any moment they can fit in a French word, or a butchered French pronunciation of an English word, they must. I just about lost it when some boy behind me corrected the professor under his breath when he said salvation was “SAL-VASS-EE-OWN.” The book was translated, sir; you are in the wrong. 

I have nothing against French speakers. I took two years of French in middle school. If Mr. Ealey is here, I’m giving you a shoutout. Thank you for playing The Lion King in English with French subtitles and considering that learning; it was truly helpful. 

I lied again: it helped me with nothing. I went to France (not Bar-tha-lona) this summer and I could communicate with no one. So thanks for nothing, Steven. 

But back to the people in my English class, they just need to stop. Every person understood that you spoke French the moment you said, “I speak French” as your fun fact on day one of discussion section. Number one, taking two semesters of French doesn’t mean you speak French. Number two, that is not a fun fact. 

Knowing French does not actually help you read an English-translated copy of The Red and the Black because shocker, the book has no French in it. 

I’m all in for people learning more about other cultures or embracing their own, but there is a line that you cross every time you comment on the professor’s pronunciation of a language that you barely speak as well. Throwing a thick, fake French accent on top of everything doesn’t make it any better. Every single person knows you are only speaking French because you think it makes you sound well-read and educated. In reality, it does. But it’s also pretentious. 

Next week, we start reading Russian literature and if the room turns completely into a Russian language class, I just might combust. 

Thank you for listening to my Ted Talk. Au revoir.