There is an advertisement that I have seen all over the Paris Métro. It shows a typical British Bobby who is badly beat up. He’s holding up his hand as if to say, “STOP! I’ve had quite enough!”
Iarretez de massacrer l'anglais

Stop massacring English!

The ad reads: “Stop massacring English!” The idea is, of course, that if you buy this company’s English courses, you will ostensibly stop “massacring” the English language.

I’ve been in Paris for a week now, and this ad got me to thinking, if there was some French guy (complete with beret, cigarette, and baguette in hand, naturally) who got a smack every time I made an error in speaking, what would he look like?

Well, he would probably be in pretty bad shape. In fact, he’d probably still be lying on the floor, quivering from the time I said I thought “the window was delicious.”

The language barrier was not something to which I gave a lot of thought before coming to France. I have been studying French since kindergarten (I have the Atlanta public school system to thank for that one), and I have been to France twice before and got along just fine.

But I haven’t taken a French class since my first semester freshman year at Duke, and it turns out that that is plenty of time for your brain to start to rot.

Yes, I remember the basics. I can order in a restaurant and talk to shop owners just fine. But it turns out that there is a big difference in being able to buy a stamp and being able to show your personality and wit in conversation.