Learning French Through Edith Piaf

by Esmat

In the immortal words of Edith Piaf, “Non, je ne regrette rien”. And ‘NO’ I don’t regret anything about trying to learning French.

Spent the whole afternoon listening to this beautiful piece of voice-from-the-heart (I know, I suck at describing something). Somehow the French comes naturally to me.

A couple of years ago, I was planning to go to Lyceè Esteqlal, a public high school in the heart of Kabul, which I admire greatly, mainly because of the language and the cultural programs it holds. To get an admission at the school one must have a good academic standing (although if you have connections then you have no problems), and know a bit of the language. I spent an entire winter, like almost two months learning elementary French. I was getting really good at it.

Then when the time came for me to apply to get an admission, people in my family discussed the cons of it. The thing is that, Esteqlal is located in a very important part of the city, Arg (the presidential palace) is only about 100 meters away, and many embassies has a close proximity to it, so often for example there are a lot of threats and attacks happening around the area. Serena Hotel is less than 50 meters away, and quite a dozen attacks have happened there. Oh and the other thing, it’s in the other side of the city, which meant that I had to take an almost hour long commute everyday, passing by different dangerous routes.

I was ready to accept all of those risks everyday, if it meant that I would get a good education, more than anything to immerse myself in the French language. But fate stepped in and I changed my mind. Sometimes when I think about it, I think I would have gone quite a different path if I chose to go to Esteqlal than Habibia. Though, I don’t really regret it because I have had better opportunities being in Habibia too.

That year I got admission into Habibia. However, I had no interest in Habibia. At first I thought it was a place where all the gangsters went, that’s how at least everyone at the time, except my family, described it. Then I got to know that it’s a good place with lots and lots of things wrong with it. (Read ‘The Graduate’, t0 know more.)

At Habibia the only languages they they teach is Dari (good teachers with good taste in literature and always bad tempers), Pashto (always the bad-mouthed teachers) and English (terribly incompetent teachers). Struggling with three horrible teachers for three years of high school. For some time I forgot how beautiful a language the French is.

Early 2015 while in Australia, I watched ‘La vie en rose’ a bit, the movie about the life of the infamous French singer, Edith Piaf. And I fell in love with her voice.

It was reminder, a good reminder that I should learn French again. I Googled and I found Duolingo.

And now since I have graduated from high school and the huge burdens of it, I have immersed myself in everything French. Of course that’s how you learn a language. Jhumpa Lahiri a personal literary hero of mine, is going to publish a book in Italian soon. How she’s so committed to learning a new language is just amazing in itself. About a month ago, I read about her experience of her trying to teach herself the Italian language in The New Yorker.

Maybe someday I am going to do that, just like Lahiri, I’ll leave everything and go to the country (France) and will live there until a book turns out. But first I’ll listen to Edit Paif to enjoy myself by the pleasure of unknown-alien sounds to my ear.