My grammar is really bad. But you can't really learn French without learning the grammar. I have spent the last two weeks trying to discern the difference between le complemente d'object direct and le complemente d'object indirect and les verbs transitif et intransitif. It's been grueling work for my 37-year old brain. But it's also been immensely rewarding. It's like watching the dissection of a language, and thus the folkways of a people.
I am fond of making wishes, and looking wistfully back at my school days. Here's another wish: Instead of saying "You must learn this, because it's the rules," I wish someone had said, "You should learn this because it will explain how the language you are speaking, right now, actually works." That's what it is--"How stuff works." Not "How to make people not sneer at you."
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power