Trouble Recovering My French

Joshua Reynolds, “Self-Portrait as a Deaf Man”


I’m fighting fierce jet lag in Paris at the moment so only have energy for a brief post. I’m speaking French for the first time since 1995, and while the language is coming back, the process is occurring slower than I would like. Every hour, however, I remember a few more words. For instance, at 4:30 yesterday afternoon I couldn’t remember the French word for sidewalk and and hour later I did (“trottoir”).

To describe the experience, I’ve turned to a Lucille Clifton poem, albeit I’m taking it out of context. In “i am accused of tending to the past,” Clifton describes how “History” is learning the pasts of oppressed peoples. I’m using the poem to  give me confidence that I will recover my French and, with it, my confidence. Here are the lines that I’m currently leaning on:

she is more human now,
learning languages everyday,
remembering faces, names and dates.
when she is strong enough to travel
on her own, beware, she will.  

No need for people to beware in my case. They’ll just be glad that they can understand what I’m trying to say.

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