I’ll start this assessment of French 101/102 with a warning—one that applies to all first level language classes. If you ever find yourself longing to start a new language, know that you will have fifty minutes of class every day for both your fall and spring semesters. In other words, don’t take a semester of 101, then get tired of cramming your way to less-than-proficiency in a language that you decided to take the day you heard yourself pronouncing “croissant” like, “Chris-aunt.” Because once you’ve taken 101 you must take 102, otherwise you don’t get credit for either course. Yes, no credit. Really.
If you’ve worked out that I’m speaking from personal experience, tres bien! Don’t get me wrong—I don’t undervalue the importance of speaking multiple languages. While English is becoming more and more widely spoken, that doesn’t mean we should all succumb to the American stereotype and remain ignorantly unilingual. Just beware of the moment you go from, “I’ll listen to podcasts, watch films by Truffaut, maybe I’ll quit school and move to Paris!” to “Oh no, I have French class in 15 minutes, was there homework?” It was my strategy when I took Spanish in high school, and it’s the same pattern I slid back into after a couple of weeks of French 101. After first semester I decided that rather than putting in so little effort, I would be better off taking a distribution requirement, or a course relevant to my major. But that wasn’t an option. I couldn’t drop French without becoming course deficient. So now I’m in 102, making everyone else in my class look good.
I’m not saying you can’t get a lot out of Foreign Language 101 and 102, but you have to be diligent. Put in the two hours of study for each hour of class—rather than two hours total before each test. But if you’re like me, and you foresee a semester of hastily done homework and unrolled “r’s,” maybe you should rethink your dream of emigrating to Paris. It’s not realistic.