Saturday morning, I attended my first meeting with the Tacoma French Club at Mandolin Café. I majored in French at college, but even after 8 years of study, 6 months actually in France, and a post-graduation stint as a tutor… well, it’s been about 4 years since I really spoke French. “Rusty” doesn’t begin to describe it.
The ole’ nerves were pretty busy on Friday afternoon, making a quiet but insistent fuss about joining an actual club. “It sounds so official, doesn’t it? And besides,” they jittered, “I won’t know anyone, I won’t understand anything, I won’t remember how to say anything…”
Fortunately, come Saturday, my love for the language and a strong cocktail of curiosity and determination (with God as my witness, I will speak French again!) outweighed the nervous-nerves. So, off I went.
It turns out that I do know one of the organizers, a former classmate from school. Just seeing her there was incredibly reassuring to me and my nerves. “Even if I can’t talk to anyone else,” we thought… but that turned out to be a moot point. I walked in, and before my name tag was stuck to my coat, three very nice people were introducing themselves, showing me where to sit, and asking how I heard about the group.
I mostly spoke with some beginners who don’t speak any or much French at all… A touch cowardly, perhaps, but a good way for me to start out. It gave me and my nerves ample time to think in between sentences—and really think so that I wouldn’t be blurting out wrong things for someone who might sop it up, mistaking me for any kind of expert. By the time some more fluent folks approached, I was out of the panic realm, feeling much more confident.
A few hours and a delicious tomato quiche later, I realized what a nice time I was having. The whole morning was wonderful motivation to get studying again. Good thing I have 3 full bookshelves of French grammar, dictionaries, thesauruses, common phrases, novels, and poetry…