It’s Not a Speaking Presentation: My French Woes

It appears as though, three weeks into my AS Level, I’ve realised that I can’t actually speak French much. Or write it. Or PRESENT it. Oops?

Today was one of the worst and most humiliating days: not because people laughed at me, but because I felt really embarrassed for myself. I’ll give you a bit of background, and try to not make it so heavy because otherwise, I’ll cry. Oh – in fact – it wasn’t that bad, only a little of it being awful.

We’re supposed to be doing three presentations before the half term, on certain cultural themes or moments from history. Mine was today, on the Algerian War. Me being me wrote a few notes on it, but did the bulk yesterday – I had a valid excuse, and that was that I was so stressed and busy from everything else that I NEGLECTED my French. Errrr, lesson learnt.

There are 4 people in our french class including me. So, I KNEW I had to be good. I had to produce something vaguely, ahh, presentable. Excuse the pun.

Here’s a little timeline to give you an idea of my obscurely high stress levels.

A week ago: I picked my theme. Yeah, it’s all good, I think. One girl’s done hers and it was great, so I HAVE to be that good. I HAVE to.

2 days ago: Oh SHIT, I procrastinated. The panic started to set in. Okay, I thought. I’ll just do this homework and this one and THEN I’ll do my French.

Yesterday, 4:30: I got home from school. I felt sick already, knowing I had to start my presentation NOW NOW NOW.

5:00: A quick bit of information: I’m blind, so powerpoints are tricky. I decided to just write it in a word document. I already had some vague notes, but then I had to research. And research.

6:00: I felt even worse. By this time, I’d got a lot of facts, a lot of dates. I had most of the information. And then, my mind hit a roadblock and a fog descended. NO, NOT NOW! I pleaded inside my head. When the so-called “fog” descends, I lose all will to work. Everything blurrs, and I feel unmotivated.

6:30: I messaged a girl in my French class, asking her how the hell she did her presentation. I was panicking, my mind whirling, but it hadn’t got too bad yet. What I did was translate the first paragraph into French, then get the rest and try and translate it. I was half-crying with stress, not too much though, and then I had to go for dinner.

8:00-9:30: I couldn’t find the right words for anything. My vocabulary ran away from me, where I was unable to string sentences together. I cried, called myself stupid, gripped my hands together, did my crazy mastermind hands and tried to breathe. All the while, work wasn’t being done and I was stressing even more. I couldn’t think of the right way to say it, something that didn’t sound english – attaquer? Prime ministre? No, the teacher won’t be happy with that. We had to be better better better, we’ve A LEVEL STUDENTS! All of that was running round inside my head, so I got frustrated and angry.

I finished it, but it wasn’t good. I spoke it through, about 4 minutes – what she wanted – and by this point, I felt so drained that I could barely breathe. Dad kept asking if there was anything he could do, and got a bit annoyed with my mutterings of “I’m fucking stupid NO!” but it was something I had to do on my own.

Last night, I felt so numb. I couldn’t even be proud I’d got it done. All the insecurities of me being bad at french swam to the surface. The teachers wouldn’t understand if you told them you felt so shit that you couldn’t work. It’s a pathetic excuse to them, though if you say you felt ill then they accept it more. Why?

This morning:
8:00: I got into school. I fe lt ill, panic setting off bells in my stomach, but I just dealt with it. I can do it, I thought. YEAH.

8:30: My first lesson – French – started. We’re asked to start writing an essay on conflict of the generations. I did it, mostly; my vocab wouldn’t come again and I felt miserable. Like I was too much of a moron to be able to let french words flow out of me. Still, I was happy that I got SOME of it done, at least.

9:30: Our next french lesson started . I went into it feeling alright, with my mood improving. I answered the questions, took the initiative, but I’m still not as good as the other pair in my class – the girl next to me has the same level of confidence that I do. I ASKED to do my presentation at the end.

Then I do it. It’s awful.

“En 1954, une guerrre a commencΓ©…” I stumbled over my words, the numbers. I carried on regardless, but my voice faded into what felt like nothing. I sounded boring. Stupid. I was just reading from a script.

“Okay, Elm, I’m going to stop you there.” My throat closed up as if I was going to cry.

points I should think about next time:
1. Don’t just list off the events. Get a little information on what happened, why, and what YOU learnt from it.
2. Putting too much detail in isn’t good – what will people learn from your exposΓ©? (But doesn’t she understand that I learnt NOTHING from the other presentations because I just couldn’t understand them, because I didn’t have the information on a powerpoint to look at like they did)
3. Don’t just read from the script. Otherwise, it’s not a speaking presentation, is it?

It’s not a speaking presentation. It’s NOT a SPEAKING presentation. Those words have been cycling round my head ever since. As she spoke, I felt my eyes grow wide, my entire perception of everything going freezing and rushing back in again, all of it tipping and going out of balance. All I could think was that my crying, my feeling of idiocy, was for NOTHING. That I’d wasted my time feeling terrible.

I felt as if I was the stupid one out of the class. None of the other girls had had that, had basically been told they were doing it all wrong, in that voice. That understanding voice that I hate, where they sound as if they’re saying, “I understand.” Even if they do, they don’t fully get it. It made me feel my blindness and added another thing – that everyone was staring at me and I wouldn’t know.

In a nutshell (LOVE that phrase) I felt unbelievably humiliated. I refused to let myself process it, shutting it all out. Being so quiet, and then making myself okay, because if someone had asked me how it went I would have bawled.

I’ll have to learn from this; I know I will. It doesn’t make it easy when your heart pounds a million miles an hour, telling you that it was obvious why you failed.

I feel as if I’m drowning in it, in work and I feel trapped. There’s not much I can do except let myself scream it out somewhere and I’ll be okay. I’ll learn to swim again, and this is just a minor blip. I love that word too.

Have you ever felt really embarrassed in front of your class?

From Elm πŸ™‚

53 thoughts on “It’s Not a Speaking Presentation: My French Woes

  1. I am so sorry that happened, I know the feeling all too well. Happened to me in Spanish class just the other week actually. Languages and school can be just so stressful. Sending big hugs your way!

  2. Don’t beat yourself up about it. The teacher will understand that you have only just started A level French and will get that your confidence is low but it will take time to get to a comfortable level, but trust me you will. I used to hate presentations, in fact I still do. For example we have had to do multiple presentations in Economics but I honestly have no clue about any of it so I look like a muppet. I had a moment like this in Economics where we had to create a manifesto of economics laws we would bring in to benefit the uk if we were prime minister, and the girl I was partnered with is just like me and has no clue because our teacher treats us like we should already know everything! Then he got the rest of the class to ask us questions and we just got totally mugged off. So I know how you feel Elm. Btw I am re-reading girl online by Zoe sugg and you remind me of the main character! If you haven’t read it you need to as I know you will love it. Sorry for the long comment!

  3. Elm, I’m so proud of you for getting up there and doing your presentation IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE MIGHT I ADD. I don’t know about you, but that’s something we NEVER had to do for GCSE French, so it’s a big step up. You’ve come so far in these past three weeks of A Levels and although you may still feel like you have a long way to go before you feel on top of all your work and in control, you haven’t given up and that’s what counts.

    I had to do a presentation for French last week, on a French-speaking country, but we were able to work in pairs to produce and present ours and I honestly don’t think I would have been able to do it by myself like you did. My French class is a little bigger than yours, there are ten of us, but I totally understand you feeling as if your the ‘stupid one’ because everyone has come from different backgrounds and was taught French differently. I am constantly paranoid about my pronunciation and speaking because when I hear everyone else speak, they sound like natives. But trust me, you deserve to be in that class as much of anyone and you CAN do it, it will just take time for you to feel comfortable within the class and with the teacher.

    I know we might be doing different exam boards (I’m doing AQA by the way) but if you’re ever feeling really stressed out by French, you’re very welcome to message me and I’ll see if I can help. πŸ™‚ Even if it’s just to rant about how ridiculous French grammar is!! But I’m glad you’ve managed to learn from your presentation and you should be proud the fact that you ACTUALLY did it, because I am and I’m sure the rest of your readers are too. ❀

    • I don’t know how you do this but with every comment, you make me feel better about myself. Because now I REALLY think I can do this. French is so daunting – especially because everyone treats french differently and learns it differently. If YOU ever need any help, then you can message me too! I’ll be taking you up on that offer soon- you’re so helpful, thank you! I hope I can learn to be proud of myself for it, wholeheartedly.
      Oh, and thank GOD you understand!

      • I’m glad I could help and OF COURSE you can do this. Feel free to message me whenever you like and I’ll keep that in mind, thanks! I hope you can too. πŸ™‚

  4. Oh gosh. French is hard, from whatever I’ve heard. I can hardly manage the local languages. And this happens in life, you’ve just got to accept it and move on πŸ™‚ In the future, you’ll mostly remember this, cringe for a second and proceed to laugh it off
    Don’t you worry, you can kill it the next time

  5. That sounds like it was so difficult – I can barely present anything in English let alone another language. I had to talk through my work the other day to the class and no matter how much I psyche myself up I can’t seem to do it without losing breath and feeling like I’m on the verge of crying. It’s honestly so embarrassing, so I get where you’re coming from. I hope you’re okay – I’m sure your presentation was great – don’t look too much into their comments; it’s their job to be extra critical πŸ™‚

  6. *hugs* We’ve never had to do a presentation in another language like that — I know I’d find it CRAZY difficult. Presentations are stressful enough anyway. Honestly doing any of that sounds absolutely amazing to me ❀ I'm sorry you're not feeling too good right now but I AM SENDING YOU ALL THE GOOD VIBES. And yeah, sometimes I just feel like I'm absolutely drowning in work but it does pass.

  7. I have. It happened in French class too, when the teacher was announcing the text scores, though a lot of people did badly, but I guess I understand what you’re on about. Don’t let it slow you down. You’re allowed to cry and feel bad, but just as you said, it’s just a minor blip. You’ll do well. I know you would. By the way, its not a lot of people that can even stand in front of a class, even if the class is consisting of one other person. Proud of you.

  8. aw I’m so sorry to hear about this! I often struggle with class situations. I have select mutism where I just freeze in certain situations. Once, before my teacher knew about my issues, she asked me a question and she kept asking it again as if I didn’t get it the first time. I was just like “uh, um…” and it was honestly terrible. I’ve had to do many presentations and each is as equally dreadful as the next; sometimes I physically can’t do them, other times I do OK. It varies. Whilst I am not blind like you, I have autism, which makes me feel everything like so much more intensely and I get so nervous! I hate people looking at me and being at the front of the class so basically go away presentations xD I’m sure you’ll do fine tho; you’re actually doing French for a-level, I’d never be able to!! My memory SUCKS xD

    • The thing is because we both have a disability you GET it – you get that things are more difficult. Ohh I’m so glad you understand me πŸ™‚ Presentations are awful, I agree!

  9. Well, for me I do Chinese. And we had an oral presentation. So mine really wasn’t all that great; I stuffed up my translation entirely, getting all the nouns and verbs and adjectives mixed up. So with two days to go before my presentation, my Chinese teacher told me it was entirely incorrect and I’d have to restart. I came to her in desperation on the last day, and finally she took pity on me and helped me. Then we did the orals, and as predicted I was awful. But then – and this is the part of the story that pisses me off the most – my Chinese teacher used me as an example of what not to do when writing essays. It was goddamn humiliating because I had tried – hell, I translated my entire oral, incorrect vocabulary or not! But yeah, I hateee it when stuff like that happens.
    Trish xx

    • β  β •β “ my goodness that sounds so awful – your Chinese teacher shouldn’t have done that! I’m glad that you understand how it feels, though NOT glad that we both had !e experience that! It taught us something, though. No matter what, you tried your vbest and THAT’s the important thing. That’s what you hold onto when you feel humiliated. Thanks for sharing your story!

  10. Omg I HATE presentations!!!! I’m having to make a timeline of the Revolutionary War for my US History class right now, put it on a power point, and I’m presenting it in class tomorrow… And it’s one of my online classes, which means I’m presenting over a webcam. I’m expected to screen share my power point with everybody, which I have no clue how to do, and unmute my microphone so everybody can hear me, which I don’t think I CAN do on my own because the stupid webinar program won’t work with a screenreader!!! Oh and my teacher had a meeting today so I couldn’t even go into the live class to practice screen sharing… Tomorrow’s gonna be fun…. But mine’s in English and I can’t even imagine trying to do that in a foreign language! I took Spanish last year, but thankfully we didn’t have to say anything in front of the whole class! Hopefully French will get better for you though, and hopefully I’ll live to tell the tale of my horrible online presenting experience! πŸ€—

    • OH MY GOD, how did it go? That sounds like a nightmare! 😦 How do you do powerpoints? I literally have no idea how. Ooh and what screenreader do you use – sorry I’m acting like a nerd πŸ˜› But that’s a good thing. I hope french gets better for me too – and I hope your presentation went okay!

      • Lol! Nerdiness is not a problem because I could probably be the president of the nerd society if there was such a thing. It was totally nightmarish and basically my teacher had me email it to him so he could screen share it and he had to enable my mic, and by then I was so panicked I studdered over everything, but I passed the presentation with an A! As far as making power points, they are NOT fun but technically doable. I have a MacBook and prefer to do them in Keynote on that, but I have used the power point iPhone app successfully before. I’ve used Jaws as my screenreader for years, but recently I’ve been learning NVDA, (another Windows screenreader), because it works better with online classes, and I use VoiceOver on my Mac mostly for blogging and personal writing. I’ve only been in the Mac world for about 6 months though, so a lot of that is still waaaaay over my head! πŸ™‚

      • Well I have a Mac, so if you want me to help you out then just let me know πŸ™‚ and I prefer VoiceOver mainly because Jaws annoys me

  11. Have I ever? Pfttt I feel embarrassed ALL the time. I h.a.t.e. presentations. You worked hard on your assignment, even though you might not think so, I do. That deserves recognition. We all have our bad days Elm, don’t beat yourself up over it, you’re NOT perfect, none of us are. That’s the beautiful part, we’re supposed to make mistakes and mess up, it’s perfectly normal to.

    • You know what – you’re so right! πŸ™‚ Thank you loads. I just get worried that I look like an idiot, or like I’ll never catch up !o the rest of the class 😦

      • Don’t worry, we all got those worries once in a while but they’re not true at all. And we, myself included because I suck at it, should stop making ourselves feel bad for doing the best that we can πŸ™‚

  12. Oh, I’m sure this has happened to everyone. Part of the reason I AVOID class participation is because of how often I embarrass myself. I tend to over-complicate things and get some ridiculous answer.

  13. WHAT and awful experience! And I get the same feeling when I try to write French and all the words that I already know just escape from my head! I think this experience has happened to everyone as French is one of those lessons where it is either a speaking perentation, or no speaking at all. Don’t stress about it, because now you can improve for you next one and ace it πŸ˜‰. πŸ’•

  14. Poor you!
    Ironically, I’m sat in a French lesson now (!) πŸ˜‚
    Anyway, why don’t you try voice recording your speech and listening back to it as a way of practising it, it tends to work for me.
    Good luck with other presentations

  15. First of all – wow! You’re doing French at A level?! I am not planning on doing Spanish because it’s way too hard πŸ˜‚ So already my respect for you has sky rocketed!

    Second of all – I know that you feel as though your presentation was absolutely horrible, but I promise you that it won’t have been as bad as you think it was. As humans we have a tendency to over-criticise ourselves! As for your teacher – teachers are there to help. If you still feel like your confidence with French is low, maybe speak to your teacher! I know that at GCSE level I’ve had some amazing teachers who have really tried to help to build my confidence. Mostly they just noticed that I wasn’t very confident by themselves, but I actually worked up the confidence to speak to one, and he was so lovely and helpful! So maybe try that. πŸ™‚

    ~Alice x

    • Hey Alice – thank you so much!! Yeah, I think speaking to teachers is my best bet at succeeding. I’m trying so hard, but sometimes, it doesn’t work.
      I’m still feeling quite negative about my presentation, but your encouragement is helping. Are you doing GCSEs at the moment?
      Your comment was really lovely by the way; made me happy!

      • I’m glad that my comment made you happy! πŸ™‚ Keep trying, and one day it will all click.
        Yes, I’m doing my GCSEs at the moment – so no where near as hard as A levels!

  16. godddd i feel u about ur french woes, i have my oral controlled assessment next tuesday and im FREAKING OUT. its not like i havent done the work but an A is like 26/30 and a B is 22 and wow there’s no way I can get that high ://

    • Ewwww are you on AQA? Because if so then we had the same and oral presentations KILLED. ME. KILLED. Good luck for yours and don’t worry! πŸ™‚

      • Elm! I got through it! I had my oral on tuesday and I remebered all of it (except i used google translate and i said that a theme park was ‘un parc de theme’ instead of ‘un parc d’attractions’ WHICH I KNOW BC I LEARNT IT LAST YEAR UGH!!) and my unseen question was ‘quel est ton cours prefere?’ which is a super easy question to answer, so hopefully i get at least an A or B!! xx

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