Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

August 2013

I’m glad I never took French.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd did a piece recently that was sprinkled with French words— hey, whole French sentences! The point of her column was that the French are despondent about, well, just everything. She must speak and read the language really well to come up with so many quotes and citations.

My language skills never developed beyond Latin I. Amo, amas, amat, amamus ... whatever. “Cogito ergo sum, not you!” I wanted to respond recently to a bore who keeps saying “ergo” before stating some dumb conclusion. C’est la vie, eh?

Miss Hamm was the ninth grade Latin teacher. Because it was my first year in the East from Oklahoma, I had, to her ear, an accent. You ever been to Boston? Think they don’t have accents? For them, beer has two syllables and the words “this affta” refer to this afternoon.

Anyway, my perfectly good all-American, slightly Southern way of conjugating verbs convinced her to make an offer I couldn’t refuse: Promise not to take Latin II in high school and she would give me the B+ I deserved, or else she would give me a D, so I couldn’t. Miss Hamm was very concerned with Mr. Goodrich’s opinion of her ability to properly prepare students for pursuing fluency in a dead language. Mr. Goodriich was the high school Latin teacher.

I took the deal, never took another language class in high school, and was therefore (ergo) given two choices for pursuing higher education: engineering or business.

So I soldier on in English while the world is conducting more and more of its business in Chinese and/or Twitter-talk, which are both Greek to me.

Have you ever tried one of those language programs that promise to get you fluent in another language? I bought one for Spanish but it turned out to be Windows-based and I have a Mac.