I Hate French. Not France, or French nationals, or even the language French. No, I hate the school subject French.
I was never any good at languages. There were no languages at primary school and although I’d picked up a few words and phrases in French and Gaelic from my dad who loved languages, my first experience of learning a language was French at secondary school. A school which actually started at age eight, so when I (and several others) joined at eleven there were a fair proportion of the class who had already taken the language for a year and the teacher made the assumption that we all knew something.
I knew nothing. And I never recovered from that start of feeling so overwhelmed and lost when it appeared that I was the only person who had never take a single second of French lessons (which probably wasn’t the case).
The only other language I did at school was Latin. We started off with ‘Classical Literature’ – two blissful terms of myths and legends with some history and art thrown in, but this was then rudely torn from our interested grasp to be replaced by the dullest subject ever taught: Latin. I would love to know some Latin, but learning to recite “Porto, Portas, Portat, Portamus, Portatis, Portant”, strange tenses, things called past participles and so forth (that I haven’t got the foggiest clue of in English so how I was supposed to understand the Latin…) did nothing to make me love the language. Although I think Caecilius etc are imprinted in my memory…
In summary, I was never any good at picking up languages. But the reason I really hated French came down to one experience. My school had a tradition of ‘French tea’ every term or so, when you could choose an item (or two) from a set menu of baguettes and cakes. I was well known for my lack of talking aloud at this point in my schooling, but I had made a real effort in that week to try to talk aloud in class. So when I was asked what I wanted, I spoke.
And the teacher said, loudly, to the entire class: “Well now we know how to make Anne-Marie talk, just involve food!” and laughed. I have always been obese, and as anyone who has been an obese teen/pre-teen will know that this is your most sensitive age and something you feel very unhappy about. Being teased for being fat is excruciating. I never spoke aloud in class again.
This is one of many reasons that I consider home education for my daughters. I was at a private school, where bullying was dealt with harshly, with smaller classes and good pastoral care (allegedly). I have heard far worse from huge, anonymous state schools. No matter what, they are all schools, there to school. Not to teach, not to learn, but to school.