Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

The article “Me Talk Pretty One Day” is written by Davis Sedaris and it was published in 2000. Sedaris was born in New York and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is a playwright and essayist. In the article Sedaris did a good job by appealing to pathos by describing how he and his classmates felt when his teacher belittled them all trying to learn how to speak French. It appealed to Ethos by the methods his teacher used to teach his classmates French. It also appeals to humor by using gibberish.

In the article, Sedaris tells the story of his time in Paris while taking a French class taught by an abrasive teacher. He describes his struggles learning the language and the acquaintances he makes along the way, effectively engaging the reader’s sense of humor.

Sedaris appealed to Pathos by describing in detail what he felt on the first day of his class when he met his teacher, seeing his classmates being depreciated and becoming a target for belittling him. Sedaris paints a vivid picture of how he felt each time his teacher insulted each student’s introduction and the annoying feeling of what to say in his introduction. Sedaris goes on to explain how he felt each time he began to feel discouraged when his teacher continually insulted him, even though he spent hours at work in class.

He got to the point where he started to feel discouraged outside the classroom. He even started to avoid situations that forced him to speak outside the classroom. For example “My fear and discomfort crept beyond the borders of the classroom and accompanied me out onto the wide boulevards. Stopping for a coffee, asking directions, depositing money in my bank account: these things were out of the question, as they involved having to speak.” (Sedaris, 55)

Sedaris appealed to Ethos by showing the unorthodox way of how he began to understand French after all the insults he got from his teacher. Throughout the excerpt one would think Sedaris would not learn French with the constant harsh criticism of his teacher, but towards the end he had a breakthrough and understood everything his teacher said. Sedaris tries to explain through his experiences that sometimes when learning a language you have to learn in different ways than the traditional ways. Even though getting harsh criticism and belittlement isn’t normally what is given by a teacher when learning a new language, it could be the first step to understanding the language rather than jumping right in and get straight into the meat and potatoes of speaking a new language.

Sedaris appeal to by humor using gibberish as a means of French. The gibberish symbolized the way he did not understand what his teacher said even if he had taken a month before leaving for France. Thinking he was prepared, “I’m not completely in the dark, yet I only understood half of what this woman said.” (Sedaris, 53) It was a revelation for David; even though he thought he was prepared, he was not as prepared as he thought. But as time goes on, gibberish slowly turns into real words indicating that Sedaris was slowly learning and understanding what others were saying. The Sedaris text helps the audience understand a similar moment for learning a new language.

The overall point of this essay was to amuse and entertain while showcasing his own experiences and I think he did a fantastic job. His use of Ethos and Pathos was very effective throughout the text. Sedaris colorfully tells readers about how his teacher would insult every student during introductions, their experiences in the classroom with what he described as a wild animal and feeling discouraged enough to avoid making a fool out of himself outside of the classroom. (646)

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