To be fair, I’ve only been in the class for a week. So okay, maybe it won’t end up being the best class I’ll ever take. But, as of right now, the surprising underdog French Elements II has really won me over.
There are fifteen students total in the class, all of whom have taken french at Hopkins or in high school. I fall into the latter group; from my experience in high school, I took the French Placement Exam at Hopkins my freshman year and placed out of the most introductory work. I wasn’t really planning on pursuing French when I took the exam, though. It was a requirement for my then-major in Writing Seminars, so I only considered the course out of pure obligation. After I switched into the language-free Political Science program, I didn’t plan on working on my French any further.
Then, one of my best friends was accepted into a (very prestigious) dual degree bachelors/masters program in Paris. If Gaby accepts the offer, this semester will be her last at Hopkins. She’ll spend the next two years in the heart of French, studying advanced economics and picking up her degrees from Sciences Po. She’s fluent in English and Spanish, but didn’t know a word of French until she took her first Hopkins French class last fall.
Now, I’m not one to jump on the bandwagon and take the same classes my friends take, but the urgency of this being (perhaps) her last semester at Hopkins combined with the glowing recommendation she gave for the class led me to sign up. I emailed the professor before the first class to let her know about my background in French and my long absence from the language. Right from the beginning, I could sense how kind and enthusiastic she was. I really enjoy her teaching style so far.
Yet, I’ve had a bunch of classes with great friends and talented professors. The thing that sets this class apart from any of my other college courses is the format of daily practice. In all of my other typical classes, I patiently read essays and journals throughout an entire semester before spending dozens of hours on a paper/project/exam in the end. For French, I can casually study for brief chunks of time, scrolling through a vocabulary list or running through quick online exercises. I can be productive for the five minutes I wait for my cookies and cream frappe or veggie burger in Brody Cafe. Having a set of small, precise, accomplishable tasks really changes the tone of academics for me. This week, I turned in a handwritten assignment on loose-leaf notebook paper for the first time since high school. It’s incredibly refreshing to have small homework assignments break up my studies in a new way. I have a fresh appreciation for my friends in the humanities who take math or other quantitative classes for the familiarity of practice sets.
I’m only a week in, but I already have a good feeling that the work this spring will be challenging but very doable. Thanks, French!