David Sedaris’ essay titled “Me Talk Pretty One Day” recounts his experiences in France while learning French. He often tells funny stories. Sedaris describes how his French teacher made him feel terrible and how it affected his learning as well as the learning of his fellow students. This essay is for anyone who struggles to overcome something. Parts of the essay can be interpreted as if Sedaris has been there and done that. Sedaris’ essay motivates readers to achieve their goals and overcome obstacles. It is a lesson every person has heard at some point in their lives.
Sedaris talks to the students about what it was like to speak to them in the hallways before they had to fear class. This is something every student can relate. One student says in French that he sometimes cries alone at night. This student’s words can be understood by any student who is stressed out. Everybody has had a teacher, class or professor that was not their favorite or caused them stress. Reading this passage can help readers empathize and relate to the student. The passage may also allow readers to empathize and understand those who struggle to learn a foreign language. Pathos is the appeal that this passage has, playing on the stressed out emotions of students or former students who read Sedaris essay. This is what drove Sedaris to do harder to learn French. Sedaris sums it up best: “I spent four hours a nights on my homework and put even more effort when I was assigned an essay.” Sedaris illustrates that attitude and motivation are key to achieving what you want. We will work hard for what we want if we truly want it. Anybody reading this would have experienced some level of motivation difficulties at one time or another. This quote is a great example of how people can feel desperate no matter what they do. They will struggle to achieve what they are trying to do and may even want to give up. However, it is essential that they overcome these obstacles in order to achieve their goals. Again, the appeal is pathos, appealing to the motivational and determined reader.
It is the task itself that is most rewarding. Sedaris says that he was finally able to understand what someone is saying for the first time after arriving in France. Sedaris was convinced that he was an awful learner of French. He would ignore calls and pretend to be deaf outside class. But, after he learned to understand the entire sentence in French, Sedaris was able to finally comprehend it. He can understand the whole sentence even though the teacher insults him again. He said that the world “opened up” after she shared that information with him. With “great joy”, he replied to her by asking her to insult him once more so that he can decipher her words. Sedaris has used humor many times in his essay. Sedaris mentions one time when he was speaking to his mother. In this instance, he recalls how, when the kids were trying to get their mother to love them, she instead said that she loved Tums. This anecdote is from Sedaris’ childhood and keeps the audience engaged. Pathos can be described as the appeal to the childhood story. This adds an interesting dimension to the story.
Sedaris also briefly mentions his French education before he came to France. Sedaris mentions he had a one-month French class before he left New York. He adds that he will be returning to school at forty-one. This is an indication of how dedicated he was to his studies. His willingness to return to school in an age that most others might not have the guts to do, shows how dedicated he truly is. This helps readers relate to him and his decision to return to school. Sedaris may also feel uneasy because most of their classes consist of young adults and teens. This may make them feel excluded. These quotes highlight Sedaris’s ethos. This is because he has some credibility thanks to his French and general education. It also includes pathos, which helps Sedaris to relate to his readers.
Sedaris understands that sharing his personal experiences with the topic is a great way to convey a message. Sedaris entertains his audience with humorous stories and personal anecdotes about learning French while living in France. He also reminds them of the importance of motivation and perseverance to overcome hardships and difficulties. Sedaris sets an example by showing how his enthusiasm led him to work harder and pay more attention in class, despite his terrible teacher. Sedaris’ dedication, hard work, and determination pay off in the final essay. His teacher is making fun of him and he finally understands what the teacher was saying. With this level of dedication, Sedaris was able to get through the class. Anyone can do it. You can overcome any hardship that seems impossible now by putting in the effort and persevering.
Sedaris, David. “Me talk pretty one day.” 50 Essays: A portable anthology 5th edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017. Pp. 333-337.