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David is 41 years old and returns to school. After some French lessons back in New-York, he goes to Paris were he wants to learn perfect French. As student you have some advantages, like discounts on food and the cinema or other kinds of entertainment. David moved to France exclusively because of the desire to speak French. The story doesn’t tell if David wants to settle and stay in France, or just go back to NY.
David is the only “older” man at the school. Everyone else is young, attractive and well dressed, which bothers him somehow. The school he attends is international. Even if he by far wasn’t the only one who doesn’t speak French too well, he feels that everybody is ahead of him. He is alone in another country, which doesn’t make it easy to meet new friends. Actually the story doesn’t tell about David having a single friend in France. According to himself, he was expected to perform, which I disagree with. The teacher seems to not care too much, about the performances of her students. She only sees the negative in everything. I think that the only one that has expectations of David is himself, which also can be hard.
The first day of school was very interesting for David, not only because he finally could measure his France with that of others. He learned very fast, that his French was by for not as good as the one, of some of the others. It seemed that just everyone was a lot better than David. I think, you might have a rough time learning a language as 41 year old. The first lesson went unexpected for David, as the teacher seemed to only make fun of her students and be pretty grumpy. David has trouble understanding whole sentences. The fact that everybody was talking so fast, was a major problem for David. He started doubting himself, wondering if he ever could learn this. The alphabet game was a setback for him as well. As the teacher made fun of the polish seamstress Anna, he realized that this trip would demand hard work, if he wants to succeed.
As the story is written in first person, we do have a nice insight, on what it is going on in Davids mind. He seems to try to avoid his problems by being funny and making jokes. Some of them are funny though.
The teacher ridiculed everything the pupils said, by even making ridiculous racist jokes about the Yugoslavian optimistic girl. She even makes jokes about genocide. You would probably be getting fired in Denmark, if you say something like that to your student in front of the entire class. David describes the teacher as an animal, ready to strike for her prey.
David told about his hate of blood sausage, intestinal pâtes, brain pudding and his love for IBM typewriters, bruise and his electric floor waxer. He manages to fail multiple times saying these few words. The teacher of course starts making jokes about him. He probably saw that coming. The teacher just proceeded, to make fun of German Eva and the other students. He thought the worst was over, but he didn’t know that this only was the beginning.
Several times David uses random letters to show, that he doesn’t understand a word. He again tries to be funny too hide his insecurity. The teacher speaks 5 languages fluently. It’s forbidden to talk anything but French at the school, but the teacher uses English sometimes to insult students. One thing you can’t take from David is that he really tries. He works all night on essays. It seems to pay off since he clearly improves his French throughout the story. But the teacher seemed to succeed to destroy her students as David started having fear speaking French. He started to ignore his phone when it rang and pretended to be deaf when he was asked something.
But he wasn’t alone with his fear which helped him a lot, knowing that he wasn’t the only one. The other students also talked about crying at night because of the fear. But they tried to stay strong.
Until fall everything seemed to be pretty bad for David. He just couldn’t improve. But then when the teacher again tried to make fun of David, he finally understood what she said. This was the first time he understood a whole sentence. This was a big step for David. He was now hungry after more and every insult from the teacher seemed like a blessing.
As someone that moved to another country, I know how it is not to understand anything what is being said to one. When I first moved to Denmark I couldn’t say anything but Thank you, hello and bye. I never wanted to speak Danish because I felt I just couldn’t do it right. Actually me and David have a lot in common when it comes to languages. Luckily I had teachers who would help me, instead of making fun of me. I think the breakpoint comes for anyone who just keeps trying. One day you will start understanding what is being said, and then you don’t want to do anything but speaking that language over and over again. David seems to me like a perfectly normal guy who has trouble finding his place in a new environment. I think sometime change can be tough, but it is not always bad, especially when you choose it yourself.
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