I dig up my old French textbooks and begin to examine them in order to figure out what I do and do not remember. I list everything I want to review: verb tenses and grammar concepts I know I can’t recall without help, vocabulary words we never covered in class, and certain readings that looked interesting and challenging enough to be valuable. I write “Summer Curriculum” at the top of a page and organize the information from my old textbooks into units. I edit the list until I am sure that everything on it is helpful and easy to accomplish before the end of summer. On a separate page, I list French movies and additional reading materials. I realize that I am flaring my nostrils and gripping my pen too tightly; I take a break without actually studying, and still feel mad at myself for doing so.
I need to become fluent before I’m 21. In high school there was a kid who made it his mission to become fluent in Spanish in four years. He didn’t reach his goal, but our teacher would always use him as an example of how far we should have progressed. Last year there was a girl in my French class who had taken two years of French and could speak it with perfect grammar and pronunciation. I feel like It’s good to know more than one language, and I know that I have both the education and ability to speak French more proficiently than I do. I’ve taken six years of the language and managed to win all but one French-student award in high school—yet I can’t speak it without pausing to mentally conjugate verbs and rearrange entire sentences. I should be better by now.
I think about what I know and what I do not know—how I form my opinions, and how people around me form their opinions. I think about this when I wake up and lie in bed, not moving, when I go to see a movie, and when I’m talking to my parents or grandparents, listing trivia about my new school. I think about the coming school year—what will it be like, and what can I get out of it. I don’t mind being pragmatic or thinking analytically, but I’m ready for my internal monologue to change or evolve. Given time, it usually does. ♦