Tuesday, June 02, 2009

DAY 525 - THE GREAT PRETENDER


I am getting dumber.
I know this.
I can feel it.
My brain cells are one by one packing up somewhere far beyond my reach. I don't even speak good English anymore. My posts have been fewer, my patience has been thinner and my brain is more fried. Frieder.
Way more frieder.
I have had French class twice a week since January. Whenever people asked about my French, I used to say "Wow, it SURE is harder than I thought!" with my BUT I SURE AM GIVIN' IT A GOOD OLE' TRY! smile smile, wink wink.

Now when I am asked why I don't understand, I just say "Because I am slow and stupid. Did you know I am dumbest one in my class? Seriously. I am the stupidest one. My head is like a brick, I sit in the first desk in the front row too and I study two hours a day and I do ALL the homework and I try every day really REALLY hard. But I am just really slow and stupid."

That usually wraps up the conversation pretty fast.
I'm not even upset about it anymore.
Screw it.

In March, I passed the 15 month mark of moving to France. When it came and went with no perceptible change in my level of permanent confusion, I have to say, I got depressed. I had heard from so many different people about the magic "usually around 15 months or so, you will see a sudden difference, you'll just start to understand"...
And so, I waited.
I waited 15 long months for that magic moment to come. 15 went into 16 into 17 and now on this, my 525th day of wrestling with this language, I have to admit to myself, I feel defeated.

I'm really, almost unnaturally, good at pretending I know what is said to me. I can usually catch enough of the social cues to pretend my way right through every conversation. But it's exhausting trying to make sense out of two paragraphs having caught only CHEESE, HOUSE and HORROR. I could make about 65 different narratives out of that one, each one more implausible than the last. It's exhausting. I'm tired of the GUESS THE SUBJECT OF THE CONVERSATION! game. I fold. I can't do it anymore. I don't KNOW what the subject is, I don't KNOW why you are all laughing so hysterically, I don't KNOW why someone names PIERRE had something to do with a SANDWICH and it was HILARIOUS. I can't pretend laugh HAHAHA PIERRE SANDWICH! HAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHAH!!! PIERRE SANDWICH!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!

A few times I have been too tired to pretend and have let the truth come out and it usually goes like this.....

YOU: GRBLEGREBLGREBLEGRBLE GRBLE GRBLE GRBLE GRBLE
ME: Yyyyyyyyeah, I have no idea what you just said. I dunno, maybe slower?
YOU: OH. OK. GRRRRRRBLE GRRRRRRRRBLE GRRRRRRRRBLE GRRRRRRRRBLE GRRRRRRRBLE!
ME: Yyyyyyeah, that actually isn't working at all either. I still got nothing on that one. Was it about a banana that caught on fire or something? No? Wait, was it you have fear of pineapples? No? OK, don't worry about it. Just move on. You don't need to tell me the 5 minute broken English version, it's cool. I probably won't understand that one either. It's seriously not worth it. Just moooove on, you can even go talk to someone else if you want too. Seriously. I'm cool with it. I get it. It's cool.

I have to run to French class right now and count down 120 more minutes, hoping last week's conversation doesn't happen again.

TEACHER: blah blah blah blah SUBSTANTIF blah blah blah
ME: (knowing I should not have asked a proactive question) Um, excuse me? What is a substantif?
TEACHER: blah blah blah blah blah
ME: (vigorous nod of the pretending head) OH RIGHT! OF COURSE! MERCI!
TEACHER: What is the word in English?
ME: (busted. purple face) Uh.....uh........uh.....
GERMAN GIRL BEHIND ME: It's called a NOUN.
CLASS: silent.

Fuck you, Germany. Thanks for throwing me under the bus. You want to paint SHIT FOR BRAINS across my forehead too while you are at it?
Nazi.

I gotta go.
I'll be back more often.

xo Dana

9 comments:

ghersionmyjersey said...

awesome.

i just copied and pasted that entire rant to my boyfriend. he's french. i'm not.

i love your blog. i never have to actually write what i'm feeling. just copy and paste.

thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dana, I missed your posts. They usually make me feel better! I'm living in Lyon since last February (see, crap English there) and I seriously, seriously feel your pain. I went to Alliance Francaise last year and then since July have had 2 private lessons a week. I know I don't study enough - certainly not as much as you, nor do I have access to a French husband (!), but God it's hard. Today I felt defeated. I went to three shops where each of the servers "pretended" not to understand me. I came home and felt the same way about them as you do about Germany... It's hard. I too have accepted it's gonna take a long, long time. It's such a beautiful but stupid language though. I wish there was an easier way! Hang on in there. It'll come. It's got to, right?!

jg

Chelsea Barrett said...

Dana!

First of all- I LOVE your blog. Write more often.

Second- I know you told me that you prefer to speak English with your husband when you are together because you don't have a lot of time together, but you really need to sacrifice that for a little while and speak French with him. ONLY French. All the time. No matter how painful it is. It will make you improve SO much SO fast. Believe me, I've been doing it with Sarah.

I believe in you! Bon Courage!

Chelsea

Michelle said...

I just wrote a long comment and accidentally deleted it before posting. My brain is getting frieder too, it seems.

I seriously can't even remember what I said. I'll blame the non-swine flu I currently have that is messing with my brain, but I suspect it goes beyond that.

KFD said...

meeeeerci for the nice words! :) xo dana

Patrick Lawndale said...

Your blog rules! I laughed so hard when I read "You buy house". My English is morphing into phrases like: "Yeah, this Tom Tom is very big shit" and "You want to take a strong beer?" My French is super situational, catch a word, think about the situation and spit out one of the phrases I know, like I have an internal pull down menu or something-like the Terminator! I am such a TOOL! It's all relative though, when my British collegues come over, and I can check them into the hotel, and order dinner for them, they think my french is awsome.

margaret said...

Awww, chérie, hang in there!!! Maybe it would help if you found a fun & friendly situation where you could practice your French. L'Oisivethé is a super sympa tea room in the 13eme: 1, rue Jean-Marie Jego. American Aimee Gille owns & runs the place. L'Oisivethé started hosting a French / American conversation group in April--45 mins. in English & 45 mins. in French. So imagine, you could help a struggling Parisian out with his/her English! If I lived in Paris, I would *totally* check this out -- I'm trying to learn French in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for cryin' out loud. :-)

http://loisivethe.com/2009/03/30/come-and-practice-your-english-at-loisivethe/

Rion said...

hey gal! At least you've graduated to the blue book. I never made it beyond l'orange!!!

love L'Oisivethé. Aimee's awesome.

Jess said...

Dana,

You are a great writer, and this is such funny stuff (your anguish) and just keep writing. You're brilliant in English so f'em.

-Jess