Interview with a French Tutor

Nina: How long have you been studying French?

K: Since 7th grade!

N: What is your favorite way of practicing?

K: Just talking to other people who speak French. When I went to New York, I heard a lot of people speaking French, and I would just walk up to them and start up a conversation. Really any time I hear someone speaking French I try to speak with them. Any other way of learning just isn’t as fun. It’s necessary of course, but it isn’t as entertaining.

N: Are you ever scared to mess up? Or talk to native speakers?

K: Sometimes, but generally no, because I’m never going to see these people ever again. Also, French people abroad are just excited to speak to someone in French.

N: What is your favorite form of French media?

K: I never really liked French TV. I always found it very boring, French movies on the other hand can be very good. I’d say probably French movies and poetry…I like Baudelaire. I feel like it’s kind of cliche but he’s very entertaining to read and kinda accessible. 

N: How is it accessible? 

K: The language isn’t too complicated. He sticks to pretty conventional linguistic structures, but still paints very interesting images. There’s always a narrative within his poems. It’s not always a meditation on a field or something very abstract that goes nowhere…. I mean sometimes it is, but for the most part it’s not. 

N: Do you read novels in French?

K: In highschool yes, but recently no. I’ve tried my hand at a few but I usually get annoyed because it’s tough not knowing every third word. That’s why I like poetry or short stories even because they are just far more accessible. Even plays are better than novels to read. The clear dialogue is easier to follow. When you see a massive block of text with words that you don’t know, it often feels like it’s going to be indecipherable, so you’re less motivated to try and read, especially if it’s on my own time.  

N:Do you have any music recommendations?

K: Well nowadays no. Well sonically they just have bad sensibilities. They’re not doing anything interesting. With that being said I do like 90’s French rap which is very derivative of 90’s New York rap/French rap. In terms of that stuff I would say, Suprême NTM, Funky Family, Busta Flex, MC Solaar, Serge Gainsgourg. 

N: Why did you decide to learn French? 

K: My mom speaks French, also all of my Friends in school were taking Mandarin or Spanish so I wanted to be contrarian. 

N: What has been your favorite language class at Reed?

K: 19th century French poetry with Catherine Witt. She’s a great professor. 

N: Why did you like it? 

K: I liked it because I’d never really engaged in poetry before. I didn’t realize what poetry entailed. My idea of poetry was based in middle and high school which was generally very boring other than a few examples. My introduction to poetry wasn’t great, but when I started reading French that all changed. I really liked the images that they evoked for some reason. 

N: What has the learning process been like for French?

K: When I first started learning it I was very good at it, so then I stopped working on it, so then of course my progress halted. My progress sped up in high school again and then halted Freshman year of college because I thought I was going to be a physics major. When I decided physics wasn’t for me and I realized that I wanted to become better at French, I began taking French classes and practicing again. 

N: On a scale of 1 to 10 how fluent do you think you are?

K: Hard to say honestly. Some people say that I speak it really well. I always err on the side of that I don’t speak it that well because I know that proficiency on the day to day can change pretty quickly. So I’ll say a 6. 

N: Well thank you so much that is it!

K: Yea of course!