This week I began my fourth semester of French class here on SHAPE. Every semester brings a new mix of classmates and this one was no exception.
In the upper level French classes there are fewer and fewer Americans and this class is no exception. Of the 12 of us, there are only two Americans. There are three Italians, a Lithuanian, a Romanian, a woman from Portugal, a Canadian, a man from Spain a woman from Ecuador and one more European that is not immediately coming to mind. Not only are these individuals quite advanced in French many of them also speak English well.
I enjoy the international flavor of our class and the opportunities we have to explore not only the French language but cultural differences as well. In past classes we have discussed (in French) health insurance, curfews for teenagers, and shopping on Sundays. This is great for stretching our vocabulary as well as learning about other cultures.
This week we began our lessons on the subjunctive tense. This is the last verb tense that French students learn, probably because it is the most difficult. Any verb that is irregular is really irregular in the subjunctive. Any and all exceptions become even more exceptional in the subjunctive. In addition, there are very few other languages with the subjunctive tense, thus it is difficult to understand how it translates back into one's native language.
This is my third time learning the subjunctive (college, last year and now). I have the verb conjugations down and have a basic understanding of when it is used. This week however, it finally clicked for me that the subjunctive tense is used when one is expressing a subjective (versus objective) thought. I wish that, I would like that, It should happen that, etc....
Probably the most common usage is with the phrase - It is necessary to/ It must.... When I put these phrases together with the idea that what comes after is put in the subjunctive (subjective) tense, it made me smile - the verb tense that follows reminds us that what we think is required/obligatory/necessary is our opinion not fact. A great reality check and something that might change the flavor/feel of our debates and disagreements.