Why Language Isn't Worth Studying, But It's All I Need (ISO Allison Joseph)

Bonjour à tout le monde!,
was what my mother heard
when a drunk French professor
flew in with too much joy for a morning class
in that southern university classroom.
Trained that grammar was more important than life, they tried
to instill in their pupils
that to speak another language is
to be one step ahead, fancying themselves
baguette-wielding, beret-wearing Frenchmen,
despite south-of-the-Mason-Dixon drawl.
Mother continued to speak French,
though as a young girl, the nasality of her words
impressing everyone, a soft cadence
I could repeat, not understand.
No one in school told her
to study something more worthy of her intelligence,
her friends admiring
the way her words were like lyrics to a song
as she searched for her car in a parking lot.
Où est la voiture?
Why do you study French?
they’d ask. I’m not good at
anything else,
no brain capable of complicated equations,
no ease of speaking and presentation
like that of my father
when he wanted to appear
perfect. And I didn’t look
like a French major,
professors and classmates observed,
sure that I was too smart
to be a language person.
Was I supposed to be dumb,
too low for the important people
of science and business
so I turned to the trite study
of mere speech?
Was intelligence a pipe dream,
too lofty, too grand
for someone with a tongue of more than English?
I asked what they meant,
and they smiled, sure of themselves,
said you know, you did so well in high school,
applying all they’d ever heard
of the natural progression in higher education.
How did you do in your
language classes?, I’d question
and they’d say I could never do
what you do, not in a million years.


Now I realize there’s nothing
more important than doing what you love,
that I don’t have to defend
my studies, what any person,
mathematician, artist, chooses to study.
Let us learn. Let us fill our minds
with the subjects that excite us
and leave us with a million questions bouncing
in our minds, whatever those subjects may be:
Music, Education, Medicine
Engineering, Marketing, Mathematics.
Let us simply respect
the passions of others,
understand and acknowledge the strengths,
differences, never assuming
that one trade is better
until she says why she loves it,
until he says why he loves it,
enthusiasm familiar
in any field.

This poem is about: 
My family
My community
Our world


Additional Resources

Get AI Feedback on your poem

Interested in feedback on your poem? Try our AI Feedback tool.


If You Need Support

If you ever need help or support, we trust CrisisTextline.org for people dealing with depression. Text HOME to 741741