Thursday, June 25, 2009

Me & Mick and Foreign Tongues

1965 was also the year my brother Mick entered Gateway. As you know from reading this blog Mick and I had a serious sibling rivalry. His entry into Gateway would not make things better.

When we were young we appeared to be polar opposites. I was a bookworm who tried but failed at sports. Mick was good at sports and had his struggles in school. Oh, Mick was also attractive to young teenage girls and could talk with them while I wasn’t attractive and was petrified when in their presence. This dichotomy put us in many awkward situations.

As you’ll recall my parents weren’t very good at academic coaching. This worked out fine with me because I’d muddle through somehow and get good grades. With Mick it was a trial for all. They’d try all kinds of strategies to help him get better grades. They’d sit with him at the dining room table and go over his math. They’d send him to summer school. And best of all they bought him the ALM records for learning Spanish.

In Gateway in the sixties we learned foreign languages by listening to records and repeating what was said. Classes were assigned a foreign language and mine was French. Mick’s was Spanish. If I could write in French I’d write out my favorite phrase from our first year. Remember, these were records so they weren’t always perfect. This particular record had a flaw so it slowed down when it came to this one phrase and went from normal to very deep and slow. We’d laugh every time we heard it.

But getting back to Mick; he listened to his records every night for weeks. I don’t know if it ever helped him but I learned “Hola Isabel, como esta?” right away. Then I had to listen to it seemingly forever.

I took French for two years. I couldn’t say anything in French at the end of those two years. I couldn’t read French at the end of those two years but somehow I got an okay grade.

Mick did the same. Except for the good grade part. Although he did better in Spanish than in his other classes.

When I look back at this it seems there was some profiling going on. First we were all put in classes with kids with similar grades. Then we were assigned different languages. Kids with poorer grades got Spanish. Kids with better grades French. French was a high class language while Spanish was spoken by Mexicans and immigrant laborers in Buena.

Finally I got a good grade just for muddling through and Mick a poor grade for the same effort and understanding. Merde!


Jim Maddox said...

Ou est la bibliotheque?

If I remember correctly you were given the name Jacques, and John Camp was given Jean. There is no other name close to James in French, so I had to settle for Pierre.

Jim Maddox said...

Our teacher was Miss Margie Viola.

Bob Thomas said...

Miss Viola had once done some Go-Go Dancing from what she told us.

At some point there was a Miss Urban - some said she had her own zipcode.

Paul said...

I had Miss Urban for French in 7th & 8th grade ('66-'67 & '67-'68). My recollection is that she always wore black flats on the verge of being worn out and that she shuffled when she walked. The only French I remember had something to do with telling your friend who had fallen in the snow while skiing to come on and get up. As soon as I had a choice, I took German, which seemed easier to me.