If "Me Talk Pretty One Day" is satire, what does it satirize?

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mdelmuro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If David Sedaris's "Me Talk Pretty One Day" satirizes anything, it's the seriousness—to the point of the instructor insulting students making some cry—with which people take language classes, which he seems to consider a recreational activity. 

In the opening paragraph, Sedaris sets the tone of the essay by clumping language classes in Paris with a series of recreational activities, including the movies, puppet shows, and Festyland, "a far-flung amusement park that advertises with billboards picturing a cartoon stegosaurus sitting in a canoe and eating what appears to be a ham sandwich."

However, for Sedaris, this idea of recreational activity goes away the minute he enters the school and feels completely out of place, or like "Pa Kettle trapped backstage after a fashion show." The first thing his teacher tells him demonstrates her seriousness in teaching the language to these students: "if you have not meimslsxp or lgpdmurct by this time, then you should not be in this room." The teacher then goes on to mock each student in the class who volunteers an answer at one point "accusing the Yugoslavian girl of masterminding a program of genocide."

However, while Sedaris makes light of her teaching style, by the end of the essay he realizes that he was actually understanding French better. By the time mid-October came around, Sedaris says he "could understand every word someone was saying" reveling in the fact the her insults became clear to him.

At the end of the essay, it's clear that this French class, which people take as a form of self-improvement and as something that should be fun, became a somewhat traumatic experience for many of the students.