My reaction to Sedaris is completely polarized—I strongly dislike about 75% of Me Talk Pretty One Day and rather wish I hadn’t ever read those bits. However, there are two or three chapters I love dearly. Each time I read “Jesus Shaves,” I laugh until I can't breathe, so I recommend it wholeheartedly. (For those of you who appreciate a warning, it has a bit of bad language in it.)
What’s uniquely hilarious about Sedaris’s depiction of the challenges of language learning is the way he translates his awkward French back into hopelessly nonsensical English for the benefit of the reader. I'm sure many of the things I’ve said in German or Indonesian sounded exactly like his ungainly attempts. In one of my favorite scenes, he describes how his French progressed from toddler speak (using only nouns and gestures) to that of an inbred redneck: He walks into a butcher shop, points at some calves brains, and asks the butcher “Is thems the thoughts of cows?”
Learning a second language is a risky thing. It requires vulnerability and humility, which is why little children progress quicker than adults. When we are willing to speak out loud, we often make ourselves sound like idiots and offend other people. I once called my teaching supervisor in
“Jesus Shaves” is attached in three pages for your reading pleasure. Just click to enlarge.