Foreign Language: Not My First Love, But My New Love

September 7, 2008
By Aliza Shatzman, Ambler, PA

I began studying French when I was in seventh grade. As much as I would love to say that “it was love at first sight” or “from the moment I set foot in a French classroom, I knew I would never want to leave it,” this was not the case. Appreciation of the language, as well as a thirst for learning French grammar, came later. But for the first few years of my language study, I was just a “normal” French student.

During middle school, my knowledge of French was somewhat limited. I learned basic vocabulary and the formation of the present tense; I may have even dabbled in the past tense toward the end of the school year. At the beginning, I was confounded with verbs like “devoir,” whose first-person singular form means “I must.” How could you must? I wondered. “Must” is not a verb. Is it? Eventually, I got the hang of French, and I even became quite good at it. But for me, it was just another class, just another daily trek down the steps from my first-period history class.

For some people, the first year of high school is a wake-up call; or, at the very least, it gives students a chance to discover their strengths, weaknesses, and infatuations. I had always loved English; however, freshman year, linked with the teacher who would become my favorite English teacher ever, I was able to further develop my love for the subject.

But before I walked the near quarter-mile across the school to my English classroom, I had French class. French continued to come naturally to me; therefore, I continued to sit in the back of the room and do my homework. I earned a near-perfect score on every test, after all, so what was the big deal? The big deal, I would eventually come to realize, was that there was more to French class than weekly chapter tests and book exercises.

Fast-forward to sophomore-year French class. I had a terrific new teacher, a different classroom, and a slew of new classmates. It was a full class of at least twenty-five students; however, only one student stood out to me. And, unbeknownst to her, she was the person who changed my attitude toward French.

The aforementioned student was a scholar to the highest degree: she took two languages, and she had skipped a level in each one. Whenever my French teacher asked a question, her hand was poised, ready to answer. Up until that point in my high school career, I had been of the mindset that language class was like a gift to the adept few; a semblance of a study hall, a place to complete homework assignments while the rest of the class struggled to put “-er” verbs in the past tense. But after just a few short days of watching the linguist in the back of the room, who seemed so eager to learn, I began to raise my hand, too. I began to speak to the teacher solely in French, just as she did. Most importantly, I began to develop a love of the French language.

Near the end of the first marking period, inspired by my accomplished classmate, I decided to begin taking a second language as well. But for the first time in my life, I did not jump into Spanish as a way to compete; rather, I did it because, as a result of my classmate’s enthusiasm for languages, I had developed a love for them, too.

This classmate’s effect on me did not end with the conclusion of sophomore year, however. Over the summer, I learned Spanish II, and I entered Spanish III at the beginning of junior year. This was no longer enough, however. I needed a challenge: a puzzle to put together, a code to crack. But most of all, without my driven classmate in Spanish class with me, I needed someone else to push me to succeed. So, I moved into Spanish IV, a decision that has proved immensely rewarding.

Throughout my life, many people have inspired me to push myself, to excel, to achieve. But as a student, many of the most influential people in my life have been my peers: the people with whom I travel from class to class, studying together, comparing schedules, and gossiping about a teacher’s seemingly ridiculous exam. It is never easy to admit that anyone does anything better than you can do it; however, by ceding someone else the early victory, as I did, I was able to discover that a foreign language is more than just a class. It is code, a mystery, a puzzle; and it is just waiting for someone enthusiastic enough to figure it out.

Similar Articles


This article has 1 comment.

on Dec. 5 2010 at 3:16 pm
alaskatrailmutt, Jefferson, Maryland
0 articles 0 photos 352 comments
i liked your artical. Some ppl really just need a psuh :) Why did you take French first and not Spanish though?


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!