I've been studying French lately and I'm getting ready to head off to a French camp in a month (like nerd camp, but croissants at breakfast). In the meantime, I've been meeting with a weekly conversation group, and I'm afraid that my dissertation description came out much as above. Over at Language Log they have an analysis of how this happened. Of course, English teachers experience this daily, in harrowing experiences detailed in the Adventure Channel series, "When Undergraduates Pick Up the Thesaurus."
File under "All your tree are belong to us all."