College Dropout

More

I'm taking an hour a week day to try to teach myself French. Kenyatta went to Paris five years ago and loved it. She wants me to go back with her, and I want to go. But I refuse to do so until I have a rudimentary understanding of the language. This isn't about impressing the French -- I expect my accent to mocked -- it's about how I interpret the world. Language is a big part of it.


Anyway, I'm using FSI. Please don't tell me why I'm doing it wrong. I've found on the autodidact's path, it's much more important to "keep going" than to "be right." Anyway, I took French in my first semester of college. I got an F, and my long descent out of the ranks of the University was on. But there moments like this evening, when I find myself repeatedly writing out "A bientot J'espere" or wondering how you pronounce "Tienes" and am totally struck by what I missed.

I don't regret leaving. I badly wanted to write, and I wasn't doing much writing -- not the kind I wanted -- in college. But I'm always amazed at how much basic shit I missed -- the sort of stuff that people who go around calling themselves "public intellectuals" should know. I understand that there are many fakers out there. But if you're not much interested in faking, that's small comfort.

Perhaps part of the problem is that phrase -- "public intellectual." It means "public teacher" whereas maybe there should be some consideration of adding "public student" to that designation. After all, it was the "public" that sent me to FSI to begin with. 

I would call myself a "public student" but there something presumptuous and faux-modest. Kinda like when Huey Newton dubbed himself "The Supreme Servant of the People" 
Jump to comments
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

'Stop Telling Women to Smile'

An artist's campaign to end sexual harassment on the streets of NYC.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

From This Author

Just In