The Joy of Learning a Language

When I was in high school, I took four years of Spanish and two years of French. In my junior year, my mother insisted I take French. I really didn’t want to but couldn’t think of a way out.

To my surprise, I discovered that learning French was more fun than learning Spanish. Each lesson in the French textbook started with a story about French teen-agers. Every day, the teacher played a tape of authentic French speakers acting out the stories with sound effects. Looking back years later, I was inspired to write the following from That’s Life: New and Selected Poems.


In the high school classroom,

as I read the story in the textbook,

I’m in France with Guy and Suzanne,

basking on a sunny beach

or drinking wine in an outdoor café.


As French dance music fills the room

from the tape accompanying the lesson,

I find myself in the arms of a handsome monsieur

after a meal of chicken in wine sauce

topped off with chocolate mousse.

We whirl around the room.


The school bell’s clang jolts me back.

I rise, follow others out of the classroom,

resigned to being a teen-ager in Wyoming.


Did you ever learn a foreign language? How old were you? What was it like? Click on the link below to hear me read the above poem.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Pre-order That’s Life Today!



Author: abbiejohnsontaylor

I'm the author of three novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. My work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. I'm visually impaired and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my totally blind late husband who was paralyzed by two strokes. Please visit my website at:

3 thoughts on “The Joy of Learning a Language”

  1. Abbie–Tres bien! What a great post at this season of the year when semesters have recently begun for schools of all levels. I so enjoyed your poem when you shared it at a meeting of Behind Our Eyes. Hearing your reading of the poem here with your posting of a memoir makes me like the poem even more. I have always been a fan of language-learning. Both of my parents were fluent in Italian and English. I loved being able to study Spanish and French in high school, undergraduate school, and graduate school. When I was teaching, I signed up to take a course in Russian; unfortunately, not enough other students signed up for the class. Thus, the Russian language course was cancelled. In many ways, braille seems like another language to me. Merci beaucoup! Alice


  2. Abbie, this post reminds me of Cape Breton Nova Scotia where I first heard the Gaelic language spoken. It is dying and fewer than 1000 people know it now, but someone started a Gaelic college and now young people are learning the language of their great grandparents. I never learned another language but studied Latin and it has helped me learn words in other languages that are similar to English.


    1. Glenda, just for the heck of it, my dad and I took a semester of Latin as a continuing education course at Sheridan College here in Wyoming back in the 1990’s. I haven’t found it all that useful, but I’m glad you have.


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