Trying to sign up for a language course via the Institut National des Langues (INL) website is very similar to reading a story by Franz Kafka and then, when the story becomes too horrifying to bear and you close the book, you realize you cannot because you are now the ill-fated protagonist and there is no way out, at least for one Luxembourg man.
David, an expat who has been trying for “an incalculable period of time” to register for an INL French course, says that his existence has been reduced to scrolling through incomprehensible menus and clicking on links that always take him back to the home page, and all the while he hopes a meteor will crush him and release him from this maddening circularity.
“The website has an English option, but most of the menus and information are still in French,” he said. “I cannot make sense of them until I learn French, and I cannot learn French until I understand the menus.”
“The moment I ostensibly found a course and tried to register,” he continued. “I encountered problems that led me to question the nature of my existence.”
“They told me I first needed to create a dossier, yet when I tried, I was denied because supposedly a dossier corresponding to my name and personal information already existed.”
David says that logging in to this dossier required a password, which naturally he didn’t know, and yet when he tried to request that it be emailed to him, he was asked to submit his INL student ID number — which, for obvious reasons, he also didn’t know.
During the following years, David tried in vain to guess his ID number. One day he fortuitously entered digits which he later realized corresponded to the date so many years ago when he got separated from his parents at the zoo.
A message of an unknown provenance responded: “This is your ID, Mr. Q.”
“My last name actually starts with a M,” David said. “I spent a long time thinking about that discrepancy.”
Much later, after his hair had turned grey and friends had all moved away, he believed that he had finally succeeded in registering for an A1.2 French course. However, that’s when he learned he had only completed the first of many steps.
“They said I needed to have an interview with a teacher before I could join, but there were no dates available except for those in the past,” he said. “Also, I was told that before I could actually join a class, I’d need to complete an online placement exam, but when I clicked on the link to do so, I was logged out and told that my session had expired.”
“So I clicked on a help button, which brought up Outlook so I could contact the help desk,” he continued. “But when I sent the email, it got returned. The email address doesn’t exist. No help desk exists.”
“In the meantime, for some reason my password seems to have been changed, so I can’t do anything at all and 50 years have passed and I know I’ll never register for a French course and I’m probably too old anyway.”
“Last night I had a dream that I was about to be crushed by a giant cockroach but he offered to spare my life if I could answer a riddle, but the riddle was in French, so naturally I failed. And it turned out that it wasn’t a dream at all.”
“That’s why I’ve got a sore neck today,” he added.
A spokesperson for the INL says that while she cannot divulge the name of the developer, mad author, or malicious otherworldly entity that designed the website, she did claim that forcing potential students through a series of mind-numbingly cruel and nearly impossible mental obstacles is a pretty good way to weed out those who get easily frustrated and will give up learning a language after only 10 or 20 years of study.