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.