My fascination with all things French began at an early age, upon learning the origin of my ancestors. I named my new puppy, a French poodle, Pierre François Dubois. I picked out swirly French Provincial style drawer pulls for the dresser my dad refinished for me when I claimed the bedroom my older brothers vacated. Pierre chewed every corner he could dig his razor-like bourgeois canines into.
My first opportunity to learn my “native tongue” was in seventh grade, choosing French for my foreign language elective. My teacher, Madame Lynch, was a European transplant. Also a tyrant, she confiscated my “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” paperback the morning she caught me reading it in class. She promised to return it at the end of the school year. On the last day of school, when I approached her to get it back, she claimed she couldn’t find it. Dictator.
Despite her iron-fisted disciplinary methods, she was generous with praise when deserved. One day, each student took a turn reading aloud a passage from our textbook. When I finished reading, she announced that my pronunciation was exceptional. In fact, she said, I could pass as a native speaker. My thirteen-year-old self interpreted that to mean I was a natural, had mastered the basics, and no longer needed to study. My B+ plummeted to a D the next semester. Nonetheless, her words stuck with me, and I never lost my affection for la langue française. Continue reading