Alice Kaplan writes about why, despite her long struggle with the language, she loves to speak French:
I go back and forth in my thinking about my second language. Sometimes I think, it’s only the wealthy students who get French; it’s only an expression of their class privilege. My privilege that I went away to Europe when I was fifteen and the shape of my mouth and the sounds going in and out of my ears weren’t frozen into place yet. An accident of class. Or, I think, why have I confined myself to teach in this second language, this language which will never be as easy as the first one? Why have I chosen to live in not-quite-my-own-language, in exile from myself, for so many years— why have I gone through school with a gag on, do I like not really being able to express myself?
Then something will happen, in the classroom, and I’ll see this French language as essential in its imperfection: the fact that we don’t have as many words is forcing us to say more. The simplicity of our communication moves us, we’re outside of cliche, free of easy eloquence, some deeper ideas and feelings make it through the mistakes and shine all the more through them.
In French class I feel close, open, willing to risk a language that isn’t the language of everyday life. A sacred language.
French Lessons: A Memoir
Originally posted Wednesday, May 15th, 2013