Thursday, July 29, 2010


Before our guest arrived, one person commented here that I should remember that this was not a FRENCH kid who was coming; it was a KID who happened to be French. She wouldn't be amazing or remarkable because she was French; if she had those qualities (and I think it's been pretty obvious what we thought of her), she would have had them because of what she was -- her nature, her character. The Frenchness of her was just one part of that character.

Well. For the last week, I've been on the beginner slopes -- perhaps, even still in the lodge, next to the crackling fire -- of the French language. Learning what it means to say Je Suis, or Je m'appell. Recognizing the phrase for "I'm from ....(wherever)" -- which I can't yet say in French, but when I see it, I recognize it. These are commonplace phrases, in this book -- a little stilted, perhaps, but light years more flexible than the Hola Pablo, Como Esta Ud. of my language lab days. As I read these French words and phrases, one ought-not-to-be-but-is surprising fact occurs to me.

French isn't a language that people slip into for comic effect, twirling their mustache as they speak. It isn't the language that people use to indicate sophistication or worldliness. It's a language that people use every day - to hail a cab or yell at the landlord or buy stamps. It's normal. In that environment, it's English that's unusual. Words, phrases in French? As well comment on the fact that the clouds are in the sky.

I don't know why that comes as a surprise, but it does. Somehow, knowing this, the language becomes less of a novelty, more of a I can do this.

It's a start.


Carolyn Ann said...

I keep meaning to resume my French lessons. It's a beautiful language, and one I enjoyed learning.

The fact that we had a really hot French teacher (from France!) was quite the motivator, too. :-) A few of us would act up, simply to be put on detention with her! (She soon cottoned on, and didn't bother teaching us anything - she would just put us on detention. We stopped acting up... :-)

Cerulean Bill said...

Alas, not all French teachers are hot women.... which is probably good for my studies.

I do think French is a lovely language.