Giving French a chance

My California-based grandsons –  Sidharth, 5,  and Nikhil, 3 –  were amused beyond bounds when they heard I  attend  weekend classes in French.  The idea of their  thatha going to school thrilled them to bits.  In their scheme of things grown-ups  went to office ,  not to school.  I promised to mail them photographs.  When I mentioned this at our class,  my teacher Mrs Jayashree Jagannatha, and classmates readily agreed to pose for pictures.  I have since mailed them to San Ramon CA, USA.

At 72,  I am the eldest in a class of nearly 20.  Mr Vincent Vasanth Kumar,  course co-ordinator at  Alliance Francaise , Mysore, says they have had elderly students,  but no one my age.  When my wife and I dropped in on him  for a look-see   Mr Vasant Kumar showed  us around  the class-room and library,  and also filled us in on what they do. Alliance francaise,  apart from teaching the language,  helped those planning to pursue higher studies in France ; they even helped the deserving get scholarship.

The foundation course, of 80 hrs  spread over 14 weekends ,  is for the uninitiated – helps them  ‘discover’  French, as my  teacher Mrs Jagannatha,  put it.  She believes in doing much of the talking in French,  leaving us to make sense of it from her tone and  gestures.  Idea is to give us a sense of the sound and  flavor of the language.  It is a tough act that requires considerable   patience  –  communicating with students in a language they had yet to learn.  As a student, I am constrained to make sense  by watching, rather than hearing her.  After the first six hours of  intense learning  last weekend , I started having second thoughts about my capability to grasp things. I was not good  on the uptake ; others in the class picked up lessons with  noticeable  ease.  Their sharp reflexes and  a blotting-paper absorption of what was being taught left me way behind. I found myself to be  the lone slow-coach in the class.

At the start of the course the teacher had asked each of us  why we had signed up. I told her I wished to find out for myself,  if ,  at my age,  I am capable of learning anything at all . I have heard it said far too often that it is never late in life to learn something. I wanted to know if this applied in my case.  But  after first weekend of French, my thoughts  were, if I was in this  to test my learning capability,  I would have been better off signing up for a crash course in basket-weaving or carpentry.

As things stand, if I give up French, even before I learn how to say Au revoir,  I wouldn’t be giving   ‘learning’   much of  a chance, and the very  purpose for which I had signed  up would be defeated.  And then , I am accountable to my grandsons, after all that build-up over my going to school.  I wouldn’t be setting a good  example, would I,  if I were to call it quits after the first class. Putting it in perspective,  I decided,  I have no option but to press on with school, and  give French my best shot.

I explored the Internet, and found this  online course offered by BBC.  It is a 12 week course, and it’s free. I signed up,  to supplement my  learning at the weekend classes.  I stumbled on a couple of other  self-learning sites  –  Ielanguage and  a site created by Jacques Leon . What’s more  I have started watching TV5 Monde, even though I don’t understand a word of what they speak.  Googling has triggered in me  a new-found interest in French.  If  this mode of language learning works, I could  try it out on some other language.


9 Responses

  1. Bonjour M.Krishnan,
    It`s really encouraging for us that, at this age you are so interested in learning. Keep it up.
    Regarding French, all you need to do is participate. (keep on hearing, writing & reading. It`s only a matter of time when everything will fall into it`s place. Learn this language the same way you`d learnt your mother tongue.



    • Thank you, M Vasanth Kumar. I appreciate your encouraging words. Merci.

      • Bonjour M.Krishnan,

        I’ve noted in my mind to take a test on my ‘learning’ skills at your age. I’m 40 now.

        Thanks for initiating the thought in me.


  2. Kudos to you on this wonderful effort! I am full of admiration for you for doing this, and I am sure that with your attitude you will excel and make your family proud of you.
    I hope to read further anecdotes of your progress in French. Best of luck!

  3. Whether it is French or Basket weaving or carpentry, its wonderful to pick up a new skill, at whatever stage of life and with whatever result. Better than not to have explored new horizons at all. Good luck.

  4. Bonjour Monsiuer,

    Je suis tres enchante savoir vouz parlez Francaise. Congratulation. J’espere une jour nous parlerons en Francaise.

    Aujourdoi je suis parle Francaise apres boucoup de jours. Et je suis desole si ma Francaise il n’a pas perfection.



  5. that’s great gvk.. i get the same reactions when i tell people that i started going for carnatic classes..why not? i say when quizzed..

  6. […] a brief period I flirted with the idea of learning  French;  enlisted with Alliance Francaise weekend course, only to give up after two classes.  My French […]

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