I love French and I’ve been taking it since I was 13. However, I didn’t learn very much until my senior year in high school. Our school hired a new teacher, Madame Harig. She was half Tunisian and half French and grew up in France so she was the real deal. Often, she would get frustrated with how little French we had learned in the preceding years. Madame decided about halfway through the year that she couldn’t possibly teach us everything, so it became her mission to brand the structure of a French argumentative paper in our brains.
At first I felt like Madame’s strict structure was stifling my creativity and it frustrated me. My limited vocabulary already restricted my self-expression in French. I was upset I couldn’t format the paper in a unique way to showcase my ability. I’ve later realized that the strict formatting of papers is a common characteristic of French writing instruction, not just for beginning students of the language, but for native speakers in France as well. Just like I had to translate words and phrases from English into French, I had to “translate” my approach to formatting the assignment into French, or “The French Way”.
When writing in French I had trouble accepting the stricter style for formatting. English is my first language, but I understand that approaches to writing and style differ in various languages, something I will keep in mind when working with non-native speakers in the Writing Studio.