French and I have fallen out again. I fear it may be terminal. This is somewhat embarrassing, since less than a month ago (on 8th October, to be exact), not only did I splash out a hundred and sixty bucks on a one-year-subscription to newsinslowfrench.com, but blogged excitedly about my fresh surge of enthusiasm for the language (see here). It didn't last. In fact, I've never been closer to ditching French altogether.
French, it seems, brings out the worst of my fickleness. The reason I started this tête-à-tête in the first place a year and a half ago was due to a sense of long-held, insidious embarrassment. Most people I know have at least a basic knowledge of French, because they were made to study it at school for a couple of years. Some took it further. Most didn't, but smattering of it stuck, and, in my observation, it serves them well.
Every time I delve into classic literature, I find it littered with French words and phrases. This makes sense from an historical perspective: In the 19th century, novels and other works were largely written by middle class authors for a middle class readership, and the middle (and upper) class(es) spoke French. Even today, these French fragments remain firmly on the pages of classic works, largely untranslated, and thereby inaccessible to me. (Or rather, inaccessible to the "Pre-May-2015-Me", which is when I started engaging with the French language for the first time in my life.) My primary motivation was to finally plug this gap in my education, and I assumed that love would slowly blossom, with a view towards making myself another linguistic home in the francophone sphere.
Unfortunately, it ain't happening. For all my willing it, I have not managed to turn, what was clearly a head decision, to resonate with me on an emotional level. The positive feedback loop I had been expecting to carry me forward through the sticky bits is gasping its last desperate puffs, like fish in a shallow pool of tepid water, ready to go belly up at any moment.
French and I just don't connect. It's a bit like growing weary of a house guest, who was exciting and fun at first, but who's now driving you round the bend with his idiosyncrasies and domestic ineptitudes. He ignores the dirty dishes in the sink, leaves the cap off the toothpaste, and never puts the toilet seat back down. AND he expects special treatment.
Endless lists of exceptions in grammar, vocab and pronunciation, which (on a good day) I find so endearing in Portuguese and which, to my mind, give a language its "character", irritate the hell out of me in French. There's a saying that goes something like this: "If you're fond of someone, you don't mind if they drop their dinner into your lap, but with someone you dislike, it bothers you how they hold their spoon". It feels like French is putting up barriers on purpose, just to annoy the learner. And me, in particular. It shouldn't be all that difficult - I'm already fluent in Spanish, my Portuguese is coming along just fine, and so a third Romance language ought to be a piece of cake on a silver platter! Yes, the whole thing is totally irrational, but whether someone takes to a language or not is rarely rooted in logic. Above all, you need chemistry, and that's what's missing between French and moi.
Despite this conclusion and all my whining, I don't consider my having invested effort into learning French a waste of time, not in the least. In fact, it has enriched my life, since I've pretty much reached my goal and can now immerse myself in the tomes of yesteryear without choking on turgid chunks of Français. I've even decided to spend a wee bit more time on it, at least until my command over this enfant terrible is on the same level as everyone else's "Bad French".
My long-term goal is to speak five languages "really well", and the only thing that has changed is that I now no longer think that French is going to be one of them.