I'm sick of saying I'm a qualified middle school French teacher and this being my little joke. That is, I'm crapue at French and you'll be pleased to know I don't teach French at my school. Perhaps if I did, I'd be heaps better at speaking it.
Recently, on an impulse, I grabbed my '4th form' - me, 4A - French text book from the book shelf. Il faut practiquait - I must practise - my French. Did I just use the correct conjugation of the subjunctive? Beats me.
Within the pages of this tome, Chez les Francais, first published in 1969 - thus state of the art in 1971, my fourth year of high school - I found an essay I'd written in French, in form 5, for which I'd received A minus. It's beautifully handwritten, and in the judgment of my teacher, whose expertise I had no reason to doubt, it was worthy of a high score. Interestingly, I can no longer remember lots of the words and constructions I'd almost faultlessly written, aged 15.
Don't know what happened to my skills in form 6, HSC. Despite my teacher's optimism, I infamously scored 49 percent and thus Failed my second favourite subject. Fail. Failure. Fraudster. (See how it gets in?)
What a surprise then, when I enrolled at Melbourne State College the following year and was permitted to continue my French studies and still qualify as a French teacher. The fact that I'm only qualified to teach to year 10 was due to my choosing to major in English rather than French.
I successfully completed two years of university level French, and loved it. Some fellow French students and I formed a French folk singing group and had the audacity to perform not only around the college but at events at the Alliance Francaise. We attended French galas, saw the opera, Carmen, the libretto of which we'd studied in our second year. Great music and lyrics and hilarious for us late teens. I can still sing lots of it now.
I was seventeen and eighteen during those two years of French study. I was insanely confident swanning around with my guitar and my repertoire of French folk songs.
As it turns out, I've only had the opportunity to actually teach French for one semester at year 7 level. Hence my lapse in skills.
At my fourth French conversation meet-up last week, I really did feel like a fraud explaining my qualifications to this woman I'd just met. (Well, she asked, I think.) Another comedy of errors, literally. With my paucity of vocabulary, tiredness - I'd been marking year 8 exams for the previous three hours - and my new friend's 'idiosyncratic' accent - I'm being kind - we were stymied. Perhaps it was just that eating my poached eggs and carrying on a conversation in French required too much multitasking.
So. I've decided to go back to basics. My old French text book is a good place to start.