EN105 First Year Writing Seminar
26 October 2013
“Me Talk Pretty One Day”
David Sedaris’ essay appears to discuss his experiences as an older man trying to learn the French language abroad. However, what his story really depicts is his ability to overcome his fears and obstacles. Sedaris suggests that we all have fears of being out of our comfort zone and that sometimes when we break habits we become afraid, frustrated and even begin to feel insufficient.
Sedaris’ first obstacle was returning to school at the ripe old age of forty-one. The reference of himself as a “true debutant” suggests that, despite being a matured adult, by returning to ...view middle of the document...
Nevertheless, Sedaris seemed to have found nothing in common with his classmates who not only were of a different age group from him, but from many different nationalities. As an example, he sighted classmates names like Kang (Asian), Vlantya (Russian), two Anna’s from Poland, and Eva from Germany. Sedaris also mentioned classmates being represented from Japan, Italy, Thailand, Netherlands, Korea and China.
Sedaris suggests that along with his fear of being older and having less in common with his classmates, he had a fear of speaking a foreign language publicly. In his essay Sedaris wrote, “The first day of class was nerve-racking because I knew I’d be expected to perform. That’s the way they do it here – it’s everybody into the language pool, sink or swim.” (Par.3) This statement leads his readers to think that Sedaris was used to flying under the radar, and getting away with knowing just enough to get by. Sedaris would later find out that his French teacher would have none of that, as she required every one of her students to perform at the same level. Mentioning that he’d spent quite a few summers in Normandy and took a month long French class before leaving New York, Sedaris insists that he wasn’t completely French speaking illiterate. However, as his French teacher spoke, Sedaris was only able to comprehend half of what she was saying and it had become apparent to him that he wasn’t just going to get by in this class. To further explain his fear of speaking a foreign language publicly, Sedaris stated, “My fear and discomfort crept beyond the borders of the classroom and accompanied me out onto the wide boulevards. Stopping for a coffee, asking directions, depositing money in my bank account: these things were out of the question, as they involved having to speak. Before beginning school, there’d been no shutting me up, but now I was convinced that everything I said was wrong. When the phone rang, I ignored it. If someone asked me a question, I pretended to be deaf. I knew my fear was getting the best of me when I started wondering why they don’t sell cuts of meat in vending machines.” (Par. 21)
Sedaris also suggested that among his fear of being an older student and his fear of speaking a foreign language in public, he was also afraid of his French teacher and her aggressive style of teaching. In his essay Sedaris states, “The teacher marched in, deeply tanned from a recent vacation, and proceeded to rattle off a series of administrative announcements.” Sedaris implies that his French teacher had a “straight down to business” approach, at times having the demeanor of a Marine Corps drill instructor, preparing her troops for war. Her entrance was deliberate and forceful, and her demands were clear as she quickly stated, “If you have not meimslsxp or lgpdmurct by this time, then you should not be in this room. Has everyone apzkiubjxow? Everyone? Good, we shall begin.” (Par 4) To Sedaris, there was no warming up from this French...