Films and My Pride – My French Woes, Part 2

So. Imagine you’re kind of blind. how many fingers am I holding up? (No, I’m joking, I’m just trying to be humorous and failing miserably)

Not totally blind, though if that’s easier, you can. You’ve got no sight in your right eye at all, and you can see light out of your left. A few shapes, and some contrasting colours. Enough to be considered some, but not enough to be considered useful. And usually, it doesn’t bother you; it’s just a thing that is, like having a leg or not having a leg.

Now, imagine you’ve started your French AS Level. All good so far. You love the language, because it’s beautiful. Except it’s not so beautiful when you don’t have a functioning dictionary because they don’t produce them in Braille, and you don’t know how good the dictionary apps are.

Imagine that, for your French AS Level, you’re studying a film for the first year. Oh, you’re studying family and other bits of culture too, but your second exam is about film and the cinema. Okay, you think, before all your lessons start. I’ll figure out a way to do this. Somehow.

I wish I could imagine it. Often, I don’t care about this. Sight or the lack of it doesn’t impede my other lessons – not seriously – and I’m not pretending that I cry about it. It’s just what I’ve had all my life, but now, I’m feeling ill.

I don’t know what to do. I finished my essay on “What makes an unforgettable film?” two hours ago, and I hated it. Writing it was a chore, something I’d delayed and delayed for four days. Sentences wouldn’t come to me, and I had to look up so many words; my brain fogged over and I couldn’t concentrate. I had no excuse: my other homework went on the backburner because I was so stressed about the French, which turned out rubbish anyway. I haven’t done the history for tomorrow, and I wish I could blame it all on the French.

The worst part about this is the film, by far. We’re starting it after the October half term, and until then, we’re getting vocab. Vocab that NEVER goes in, even when I try reading it and saying it aloud after the lesson. Today in class, we – THEY – watched a short film. I had a blank look on my face, not registering the girl saying sorry to me for not describing it. It was fine, I thought. It was explained after. My head hurt from trying to listen to the fast French, and from just trying and trying and TRYING.

But a whole entire FILM? They (ugh I’m acting like they’re separate from me but they aren’t) can watch it, with subtitles. Understand it: what they’re saying, what’s happening. I HAVE no subtitles. I’ll have to get the script, pretty much memorise the gist of it, then get someone to describe it – whilst trying to keep up with what they’re saying. Oh shit yeah, and I’ll have to translate the script. Unless, that is, I can find another solution.

I wish they’d let us study the book this year, rather than the film. However, I should have KNOWN what I was getting into; I’m honestly feeling like this it my fault because I didn’t look at the course enough, I’m neglecting all my homework, my work attitude is terrible at the moment and I’m lazy.

After only three weeks of school, I’m surprised at how badly I’m coping. I don’t want to do twice the work everyone else has to do. Can’t I just be bitter by myself and cry for twenty years? No, because I have to pick myself up. I have to fight through the fog and not howl about how fucking unfair life can be.

Thinking about French genuinely makes me want to sob. I thought it would be so much more than it is, so much… Easier to deal with. I knew it would be difficult, because the jump from GCSE to A-Level is massive, but not this. Not me scrabbling to try and keep up, though the addition of another girl into our class makes it a little better. 5 of us, now.

Other blind people have done language AS levels. If I fail at this, I feel like I’m a bad blind person – like if others could do it, why can’t I? Never mind that I over-stress myself a lot; I’d feel so ashamed if I abandoned it. But my thoughts are in a jumble and I can’t get them out properly.

I went to the unit today (place where the teaching assistants who help the visually impaired kids work). They could see on my face something was wrong, and the woman who prepares my french work came and talked to me. My eyes felt too dry, too wide, as I explained to her that I didn’t know if I could do this. The teachers sometimes don’t send me the right work, and sometimes they move so fast and it’s all stacking up. My heart feels heavy and panicky.

I know that I won’t realistically drop French. I’ll stick with it, even if it breaks me. The thought of dropping it makes me feel sick, because of some warped sense of pride? I have to prove to myself that I can do 4 As-Levels. I’ve been encouraged to do 3, but I just DON’t want to; if I only do 3, I won’t have the chance to drop one at the end of year 12. It’s partly the shame of telling the teacher I don’t want to do it any more, because though I know I haven’t, it makes it like I’ve failed before I even started.

I think I should talk to the teachers about this. I need to ask HOW I’ll do this film, dealing with their pitying tone. I hate asking for help, because it makes me cry and I don’t want to shed tears over this. Then again, if I haven’t broken down by the beginning of half term, I’ll be surprised.

If it gets too bad, I’ll drop it, but I really don’t want to. I just don’t know if I can cope. I know I should put my mental health first, but I want to succeed because I do love French. Detrimental? Yeah, but what else can I do?

I feel like I’m drowning, like there’s something blocking my mind from getting a good work ethic. I’m ashamed, stupidly, though there’s nothing to be ashamed of. If I just worked harder, made more of an effort to do work outside class, I might feel like I can get to the end of the year. When I say I feel upset, I don’t just mean sad; I mean that I feel as if my work is going to swallow me alive.

It’ll get better. I feel trapped, like I’m on this bleak road to nowhere, but it’ll get better. I have to hold onto that because I’m so stressed that I could scream.

Remembering that other people have it worse gets me through it. There are other blind people who don’t get the resources at all, or couldn’t do the A-Levels they want. Compared, I have it easy and i admire those people so much. That’s why it’ll have to be okay, so that I can stop whinging. Ugh, why am I going into self-loathing mode again?

How are you guys? I’m sorry for ranting again.

Love from Elm 🙂

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 commencé…” 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 exposé? (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 🙂

Getting Obsessed with France because I’m Cool

Technically speaking, I’ve been learning French for 10 years – since I was 6 – but I can’t speak it without stuttering, my sentence structure is horrendous and I can’t formulate words properly. So, I’m NOT ELOQUENT and I sound like a Martian when I try and speak it, and must look like a moron when I write. Trying to do “de la” when it’s du, or screwing up the gender agreements and verbs. WAHEYY!

Because of that, I’m insane for picking it at A-level. I did it for GCSE and had a love-hate relationship with it, but I decided to change my options about two weeks ago because I got it into my head that it would be better for me.

Well, it WILL be. French has always come naturally to me, and I just love the language because it’s beautiful and it flows REALLY well. I know you might be rolling your eyes at my nerd fest at a foreign language but selon moi, c’est vraiment fantastique bien que je ne le parle pas!

Over the past two weeks, I’ve decided it’s a great idea for me to NOT ACTUALLY give myself a free summer (mainly because they do give us holiday homework at school). Me? Nahh, I’m doing the homework, but I’m doing stuff for my own enjoyment. What’s that, you might ask? VOLUNTARILY doing more French than is necessary.

Okay, so it IS useful. I want to be able to be reasonably confident when I go into A-Levels; I’ll be doing it for the other subjects too but French (and also English) is my priority because I enjoy it. I literally will GO OUT OF MY WAY to do extra french; I know other people will be doing the same because it’s what you SHOULD do, so at least I’m not alone.

I’ve downloaded the app for the newspaper, Le Monde, and started to read articles in French even though I don’t understand most of it. That’s how I found out David Cameron was resigning, actually, and it was WEIRD to find it out from a French newspaper (whilst trying to piece together what it was saying).

And the worst and best thing? I’ve got obsessed with French songs. MAINSTREAM french songs, that are popular, but shhh I’m not original. I just can’t stop listening to them they’re SO GOOD!

Some of my favourites which you should totally listen to:
Dernière Danse by Indila
On Écrit Sur Les Murs by Kids United
Formidable by Stromae

And there are loads more. Honestly I don’t know why, but I LOVE French songs. It’s partly because I can understand them, but it’s also because I like the language itself.

Speaking and listening are still a huge problem for me when it comes to French. I can understand it when I’m reading it, and I can kind of write, but I’m absolutely TERRIBLE with speaking because I can’t get the words out and I can barely construct sentences. The A-Level course recommends doing LOADS of things outside school, so I’ll do that.

Maybe I can listen to french news broadcasts, or find someone – like Willow or Hazel – to speak to in French (Hazel is fluent). Who knows? Even though I won’t do French at university, I still love learning a modern language. People in other countries seem to know two or more, and I want to be able to say coeur and heart, and for it to MEAN the same thing in my head.

I’m thinking reading a book in French as well – I got this thing for my Induction Day next Tuesday for Sixth Form (no one else has the material I’m such a rebel) and it suggests setting up a Twitter account in French. Y’know what? I might actually do that.

I’m so sorry for boring you with all that! Are there any languages you love learning (or that you hate)?

From Elm 🙂