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David Sedaris on Learning French
The article, “Me Talk Pretty One Day“, by David Sedaris presents the difficulties he encountered when learning French. The article’s main claim of the difficulties of learning French is powerful because it presents the challenges in learning to juggle irregular verbs, the teacher throwing chalk to students in the class, and threats of bodily harm.
The teacher occasionally uses irregular verbs, which makes it difficult to understand what she says. For example, the use of unfamiliar words such as “apzkiubjxow”, “palicmkrexjs” and “fiuscrzsws tociwegixp,” makes it challenging to understand the meaning of the sentences in which they appear. For instance, at the first day at school the teacher addresses the class using unfamiliar words. The teacher asks, “If you have not meismslsxp by this time, you should not be in this room. Has everybody apzkiubjxow? Everyone? Good, we shall proceed.” (Para.6). The use of irregular verbs in the sentence makes it difficult for Sedaris to understand, thus making him feel frustrated. Sedaris wants the reader to experience the frustration one encounters when learning French. Sedaris used unfamiliar words to show the frustration he felt. The students have the desire to learn a new language but the teacher makes the learning process difficult. The use of unfamiliar irregular verbs makes the learning process long and hard. For instance, Sedaris states in paragraph eighteen that learning French involves a long and intensive period of hazing. Sedaris means that one spends much time trying to understand the meaning of French words.
The teacher throws blackboard chalk to students who are not attentive in class. Sedaris states, “We soon learned to dodge chalk and to cover our heads and stomachs whenever she approached us with a question.” (Para.20). Initially, the chalk hit them because they were not attentive. As the students became attentive, they learned to dodge chalk. The teacher hit the students to make them attentive and alert in class. I agree with the evidence because a chalk would hit a person who is not active in class. Being hit with a chalk causes frustration in the students because they feel they are not good enough to learn French. Sedaris met his goal of showing the challenges one encounters when learning French because the frustration of being hit with a chalk.
The teacher threatens to harm the students for not being attentive. Sedaris writes, “She hadn’t yet punched anyone, but it seemed wise to prepare ourselves against the inevitable.” (Para.20). Although she had not punched anyone, they were sure she would hit someone in one of the occasions during the lesson. Sedaris confirms his anticipation when the teacher pokes a Korean woman in the eyelid with a freshly sharpened pencil. Sedaris writes, “When the teacher poked a shy Korean woman in the eyelid with a freshly sharpened pencil, we took no comfort in the fact that, unlike Hyeyoon Cho, we all knew the irregular past tense of the verb “to de feat.”” (Para.29). Poking the student with a freshly sharpened pencil created fear in the class. The other students faced the threat of bodily harm, thus forcing them to stay attentive to what the teacher says.
David Sedaris clearly presents the challenges one encounters when learning French. The challenges include; a harsh teacher who makes fun at the students to embarrass them. Also, the teacher threatens them and throws chalk to those who are not attentive in class. The teacher occasionally uses unfamiliar words, thus frustrating the students. David Sedaris effectively presents the experiences he underwent in the French class. The experiences belittle a student because they undermine the students’ self-worth and sense of identity. For instance, poking a student’s eyelid with a freshly sharpened pencil undermines his or her self-worth. Using unfamiliar words in sentences without explaining their meaning creates frustration in students. I learned that learning a new language requires hard work, dedication, and patience. Sedaris worked hard day and night studying French and doing essays. Eventually, he started to understand the irregular verbs that the teacher used.
Sedaris, David. Me Talk Pretty One Day. Esquire. Mar1999, Vol. 131 Issue 3, p86. 3p. 1 Black and White Photograph.