Friday, July 09, 2010

N'est Pas?

I was talking with my daughter yesterday about how her French skills have been improving as a result of the exercise in talking with our resident student. She finds herself making conversation two or three times a day as a concept completely eludes our visitor. For example, I told her that we were going to a market so that she could, possibly, buy some foods from home -- something familiar to her. She gave me a smile which meant I have no idea whatsoever you're talking about. My daughter cobbled together enough words that she got the idea. This morning, as we dropped her off for a group excursion with the people who'd set up the exchange, I said to her I know what you're thinking. She looked at me, puzzled, and I continued At last! People who speak French! and she started laughing. Yet I have to share what my daughter said to me -- she wished that she had enough French to have an actual conversation with the girl. I forbore from pointing out that this was why she was taking French, and had been for the last two years, and merely agreed. I also wished that I could actually talk with her -- I hadn't realized how limited her English was. I'm hoping that it gets better over time, just as my daughter's French is improving. After all, that's part of why she's here!

I wonder about something else. I recall reading reading, a few years ago, of a woman who went through Harvard Business School, where she met a fellow who had a thick Russian accent. For the first semester, she thought this guy was really smart. After that semester, once she was used to deciphering what he was saying, she realized that he was an idiot -- it was the mystery of the accent that made him sound smart. If I could really talk with this kid, so that I knew her as well as my daughter's friends, would I feel the same way? How much of her -- I hesitate to say charm, but something like that -- is based on the fact that we have to work so hard to understand what she says, we subconsciously feel as if she must be worth it? I'm guessing not -- that, whatever the language, she's a decent kid -- but I'm curious. Guess I'll never know.

I asked her if she got to visit other countries in Europe. Once she figured out what I was saying, she rattled them off. Germany. Italia. Belgium. England. The Netherlands. All this before she's 16. Not quite the small - town (the word is belange; no idea if that's how it's spelled) girl that I thought.

Still wouldn't mind having that French, though.

4 comments:

Carolyn Ann said...

I've always found the accent thing to work... :-)

Cerulean Bill said...

But you don't write with an accent, so I don't get the full flavor....

Tabor said...

My limited experience is that most French exchange students have very limited English. The students from other countries appear to have been educated with more motivation to learn English...just anecdotally...of course ;-)

Cerulean Bill said...

To be honest, I thought she'd know more -- she's studied it in some forum for five years. But it does give me a chance to try a little French, so that's not a bad thing...