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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

The Farce of French

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMy middle two children are studying French.

It’s done through a very good DVD course with textbook and workbook. Unfortunately, I am the classroom quizzer and Pasha and Mashenka don’t like it one bit. The first exhibits shut-downs, the second, meltdowns.

I learn that they follow their video-instructor’s every hint as to what will be featured on the next quiz or chapter exam. That’s all they study. So they might know how to conjugate a verb, but have no clue what it means.

Really-?! How can this be French?

It’s dumbing-down language classes to multiple choice. I decide to dig further and get to the bottom of it.

“How do you know whether a verb uses avoir or etre with theParis_France_031 passe’ compose’?” I press.

“I’ve memorized them,” Mashenka maintains, although when test time comes around I see immediately that’s not the case.

“I guess,” shrugs Pasha.

“And how do you guess?” my eyes narrow.

“I don’t know….”

“Do you remember that many of the etre verbs have some sort of motion connected with them?” I offer helpfully. “Did you look over the printouts I gave to you?” I wonder.

Q480-French-class_2277082b“Nope,” they reply in a totally “not interested” way.

If it’s not on the test, they could care less.

“Okay,” I try again. “Let’s look at the dialog on page 192. How do you say that page number in French?”

Both get it wrong. Both get every word in the full-page write-up wrong. They guess with abandon, making up an entire story, while on the test their fill-in-the-blank goes something like this:

1. One goes here to study. (Should be a library, but one says they go into a desk.)cover-french-course-ipstc

2. One studies chemistry and biology to be a…. (Should be doctor, one replies a mechanic.)

3. This person works in a hospital. (Should be a nurse, but one figures it’s an accountant. If you’ve ever been a patient in a hospital, it might not be as far off as it sounds….)

You get the drift. Mashenka supposedly begins throwing up before each major test, after 30 minutes of raucous lunchtime laughter with her sister. She wants us to know what a major imposition this French stuff is upon her.

“I’m NEVER going to France!” she huffs.

“That’s fine, they don’t really care for Americans, anyway. Particularly those who can’t speak French—.”

istock_3851236I turn my attention to Pasha, “Did you study for the test?”


“Why not?”

“I didn’t get to it.”

I feel my blood pressure rising. He behaves this way repeatedly before major exams, doing quite well on quizzes, but blowing it on the major ones.

It crosses my mind that we should be learning some different professions in French class, such as street sweeper or train station bathroom cleaner, anything where they won’t be required to speak.

And so it goes. C’est la vie.


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