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 🙂

Er and the yeah that’s why and I’m a um well actually you see it’s…


I genuinely think I’m going to explode with nerves. I mean it. You’ll get an Elm-shaped crater where I was. (haha, Elm shaped oh my god)

Gah. CALM. Peace and calm and serenity and all that…

Tomorrow, I’m going up (down?) to London to audition for some acting – no, PRESENTING – job.

Woah, slow down! Just to warn you, this is going to make me sound like an absolute, arrogant, self-centred twat. Basically, about 3 and a half years ago (nearly 4) I was involved in a film called Imagine. ‘Twas about blind people, so obviously I got the part…

Oh no, that sounded worse than I thought. “Look at ME, PEASANTS, I was in a film and you weren’t, nyahahahaha, I’m sooo great!” Dear God.

It was a great experience, and I made a few friends. Also, it was hectic and I distinctly remember several catch phrases… Let’s not go into that.

When I was 11, I was a confident little shit, and so after the film I signed up to this agency called Visable (that’s it’s name, isn’t it?!)

It’s only now that I’ve been convinced to do some work. The conversation with my dad went a bit like this:

“There’s a presenting job on the website!”

“WHAT?! Huh? What?”

“Well, it’s tomorrow… Do you want to do it?”

“Tomorrow… WHAT? What do you mean, tomorrow? Oh god I don’t know, I don’t know, just give me a second to think!”

I was convinced to do it. How, I don’t know. I know I’m being arrogant and picky – it’s an amazing opportunity – but I am terrified.

The problem? I can’t speak without stuttering. Yeah, sure, with friends I’m fine, but stick me in a room with people, tell me to talk, and I can’t.

Has anyone got any tips?! I have a bad feeling I’ll fuck up and say something wrong. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be doing! What if I mumble?

Okay, okay, okay! Stop freaking ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh dear god

Sorry for spamming with the O’s… I’m scared!

What if I-


Help meh! I’m not even joking; the bloody thrice damned thing is TOMORROW, and I’m shit at acting, and I can’t string a sentence together, and WHY did I agree to this!

Okay. I’ll just wing it. I hope I don’t cry, or something, when I get there. I’m 15. I’m mature. I CAN DO THIS!

Elm, professional actor, speaker and presenter, signing out.