Essay on “Me talk pretty one day”
”Me talk pretty one day” is an essay written by David Sedaris in 2005. It tells the story of the authors return to school at the age of forty-one and about his experience with learning French in Paris with a very strict teacher. The theme of the essay is David Sedaris attitude towards learning a new language. Although he seems to have an attitude towards learning French he actually moves all the way to France with only one month of French lessons as his previous experience with the language because he does not think that he can learn proper French in America.
Throughout the essay you can almost hear the author’s ironic and sarcastic voice. He creates an ironic tone to the whole experience of learning the language which gives the essay some humor. The language in the essay is very informal which is supported by him talking about own experiences. He uses a lot of imagery and has a tendency to exaggerate his experiences.
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For example: “it’s everyone into the language pool, sink or swim” (p. 1, l. 16).
This gives the reader some lifelike pictures of the situation. He also gives the reader the feeling that they are there with him by using sentences as: “’Even a fiuscrzsa ticiwelmun knows that a typewriter is feminine” (p. 2, l. 72). He gives the reader the whole experience of him learning the language. He does not know the words and he makes it easier for the reader to identify with him. His attitude towards learning the language changes throughout the essay.
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He starts by being positive but after his first lesson he feels terrified. Even though he is the oldest one there, the teacher makes sure that there is no segregation. The teacher is very strict and does not care to give the students a hard time. “Before beginning school, there’d been no shutting me up, but now I was convinced that everything I said was wrong” (p. 3, l. 101). This shows us that he is so afraid of the teacher that he does not dare to use the advantage that he actually is in France.
He can easily improve his language by trying to speak outside of the classroom but he simply does not dare because of his teacher’s personal attacks. The teacher completely ruins all of the students’ confidence. It ends up with them feeling as if they were in a war zone. “We soon learned to dodge chalk and protect our heads and stomachs whenever she approached us with a question” p.2, l. 83-84). This feeling of fear and shame ties the students together and there is no competition between them. Sedaris wants to avoid the attacks and the humiliation so he starts studying really hard. He wanted an identity but the teacher would not let him have that. He was constantly reminded that he could not speak French which also shows in the title: “Me talk pretty one day”. It shows the insecurities in Sedaris’ and the other students faith in learning the language. They all hope that one day they will be able to speak and understand French but has lost the hope because of their teacher. David Sedaris describes the teacher as: “a wild animal “(p.2, l 82). “She crouched low for her attack” (P. 2, l 52). This makes her stand out like terrifying and aggressive. The teacher’s attitude towards her teaching seems to be that if she pushes them hard enough it will end up giving good results.
Even though Sedaris describes the teacher as a terrifying wild animal he still has a humorous tone around it which makes it relatable for the reader since most people has found themselves in a similar situation. Towards the end of the essay we get the feeling that Sedaris’ French has improved. The teacher’s insults do not seem to bother him that much anymore. By the teacher being so strict to everyone, do the insults not seem to be that serious and maybe not something she means entirely. Suddenly he could handle her personal attacks and it occurred to him, that for the first time since arriving to France he could understand every word of the teacher’s sentence. Even though she had just insulted him he feels like it was a victory for him. He cannot speak the language but it is a step in the right direction.
He had lost all hope in ever improving in this class but now he had. He becomes curious and it gives him the lust for learning back. He ends the essay with the sentence: “Talk me more, you, plus, please, plus” (p. 3, l 128). This shows us that he wants to learn and he does not care if the teacher insults him, he just wants to hear the language and learn from it. David Sedaris’ essay shows that to learn a new language you need to learn the culture around it and you have to feel at home in the situations where the language are included. Learning a language is not just about learning the words and the sounds which the teacher ignores completely as she exclusively focuses on the form of the language rather than its use.
Sedaris’s anecdotal style seems to avoid the need for a thesis statement, at least in the classic sense. If you read the essay looking for a sentence that declares what his piece will “prove,” you are likely to be disappointed. I suppose you could consider the first line‚—”At the age of forty-one, I am returning to school and have to think of myself as what my French textbook calls ‘a true debutant'”—as a thesis of sorts. But that does not quite get at what his essay is about.
Sedaris’s argument is about the nature of education, and how, even as an adult, the dynamics of the classroom remain the same. He writes about how learning is hard, and not knowing the answer to a question can be shameful. His teacher is abusive and insulting, but as a student he found himself nevertheless working very hard to please her. In a way, her abuse made his learning possible, because it forced him to think creatively about ways he could prove to her that he was a good student. Her abuse also became a thing all the students had to endure together, a kind of shared experience through which they supported one another.
More than that, however, Sedaris is writing about the process of understanding. When his teacher tells him that teaching him is like having “a Caesarian section,” rather than taking offense, he becomes elated, because he could understand what she said. Maybe the best thesis statement comes at the end of the piece:
Understanding doesn’t mean that you can suddenly speak the language. Far from it. It’s a small step, nothing more, yet its rewards are intoxicating and deceptive.
Learning anything is complex and difficult, but when you find that you actually are beginning to understand, the experience is euphoric, no matter what age you might be.
In his “Me Talk Pretty One Day” essay, David Sedaris explores his feelings of alienation that come from his attempt to learn a foreign language while living in a foreign land. He explains this feeling early on when he is awed by the students at the school whose French was spoken with “ease and confidence [he] felt intimidating” and how they were “all young, attractive and well dressed, causing me to feel not like Pa Kettle trapped backstage after a fashion show.”
Throughout the essay, Sedaris explores this idea through humor, whether it’s through the opening paragraph in which he describes how he would rather use his student ID to get a discount at an odd amusement park, or how his French teacher’s abusive tactics, although funny in their descriptions, created “fear and discomfort” in Sedaris, which “crept beyond the borders of the classroom and accompanied me out onto the wide boulevards.”