If we were to sit down and make a list of things that drive me a bit mental, near the top of that list would be the fact that I can’t speak French.
It’s not that I expect to magically be able to speak French without any work. Yes, I could still study it. My time isn’t up and I have a functioning brain.
Why this frustrates me is that I did study French in school. For ten years. And I didn’t slack off or anything – I got A’s. You’d think that would be enough time and effort to have at least a solid grounding in any language.
Now, I get the “use it or lose it” principle. It’s obviously sound. But ten years, even if it was a long time ago, that should be worth something, surely. People say, “Oh, once you’re somewhere where they speak it, it’ll all come back to you.” Mais non. I just went to Montreal, and while I did mostly fine with reading signs, any time anyone spoke to me, I was stuck giving them panicked and helpless blank looks. It may as well have been Russian.
All those years of studying, countless hours of doing dialogues and dictations and oral exams and on and on – apparently a complete waste of time. I wish I had known that then.