French with a nasal twang?

The first thing that came to mind when I opened the Christmas package was “Be careful what you wish for.” Then an intense feeling of anxiety came over me. Maybe even a little fear.

After all these years, could I really do it? Am I too old to learn the basics? Would I really devote the time to it to be successful?
“You can always take it back,” Jenny said, as she tried to gauge my reaction to the yellow box containing the computer software for Rosetta Stone French Level 1. “But you always look at it in the store. I wanted to surprise you.”
She definitely did that. I was apprehensive. I still am. But I’m going to give learning French a try.
Why learn French? It all started more than 40 years ago, shortly after I had gotten out of the Army following a tour in Vietnam. Traveling overseas had broadened my thinking about the world beyond the lower middle-class neighborhood in suburban Kansas City where I grew up.
I made a list of three things I wanted to do in my lifetime: Learn to play the piano, visit a hundred countries, and learn to speak French.  I have no idea now why I settled on those things.
Through the years, it has become pretty clear that I’m not going to complete my bucket list. We’ve had a piano in the family for 30 years and two of our three children learned to play it well.
Our son Joe often gets up and plays a few minutes before leaving for his commute to class at Ole Miss. But I never took a lesson, and know little (well, actually nothing) about music.
I’ve done a little better with the travel. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I traveled a lot and managed to visit 30 countries. But since then, the number hasn’t budged.
The couple of times that Jenny and I have been fortunate enough to travel to Europe, we’ve gone to the same places: London and Paris. And if we have the opportunity, we probably would make the same choices again.
The third thing on my list – learn to speak French – has seemed like an odd choice. I don’t really know how it got there. During high school, I took four years of Latin and followed up with another semester in college. French was offered in my high school, but I don’t recall any interest in it. Sometimes, I think it may have stemmed from the French influence in Vietnam.
Anyhow, it was spending a week in Paris last summer that revived the idea of learning to speak French. We didn’t really have much difficulty because we didn’t know the language, but it reminded me of my to-do list in life. I told Jenny that if we ever went to visit Paris again, it would be nice to know a little French.
Of course, saying it is one thing; learning it is something else. I had pretty much put it out of my mind.
At least, until Christmas morning.
Since then I’ve been working up my nerve to get underway. So far, I’ve opened the box and read about the instruction. It’s pretty interesting, except for the part about live online tutoring sessions with a native speaker.
This could be humiliating. The thought of it makes my stomach churn.
Maybe we could go to Iceland instead. That would be 31.

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at