Ponder this:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

La Belle Langue

I studied and loved French for many years in school. I got pretty good at reading it, even aloud, but to converse with someone was always beyond my comfort level. Years ago when Husband and I were at Terre des Hommes in  Montréal, we enjoyed a ride in a little cart pulled by a strong young man on a bicycle. I tried to ask him if our little jaunt was free and I think I might have asked him if he had stolen the bicycle. He was very gracious in his correction of my error.


So my audible French is limited to reading aloud, preferably to non-French speakers.
And there are some words that I especially enjoy saying...
aucune
grenouille (or any "gr..." word, really)
Montréal (the way Montrealers say it . . . Ma'real)
le pêcheur
les étoiles
soixante-dix-huit
Connecting those words into any reasonable semblance of conversation is not only beyond my comfort level but at this point far far beyond my level of capability as well.


My father was in Brussels in World War II, always wanted to get into France, but never did, I gather. By the time any war stories would have been sensible to me he was dead so what daddy did during the war is a little sketchy. I do recall his speaking French with what sounded like a very authentic accent, though, and when I was first exposed to the study of the language I aspired to sound the way he had. I remember my high school French teacher telling me that when she went to France the muscles of her face hurt for a week from the unaccustomed exercise. 


Several years ago I met a young French exchange student who was staying with friends. I felt very shy about speaking her language to her, but it seemed only fair . . . after all, here she was having to speak American all the time! And O Joy! she told her hosts later that I had a very good accent. 
It remains one of my proudest moments.
I like to think that Dad would have been pleased.

17 comments:

Morning Bray Farm said...

I think we are twins separated at birth. ;)

I also took French in school (for many years). When, as a class, we traveled to Paris, I was able to speak French fluently... and I'm very proud of that.

Alas, use it or lose it. After my grandmother passed away, I didn't have anyone to talk with.

BTW, I'm sure your dad was pleased. :)

Rubye Jack said...

You are so lucky to be able to speak another language. I have this problem with how I hear things and there is no way I could ever speak another language fluently.

English Rider said...

I speak French in self defense, since I married one who still doesn't speak English. They need to adopt the American method of shortening words and leaving out letters that have gone out of fashion. I hate to write French as it shows I learned by ear. Who needs words that continue on for half an hour after one has finished pronouncing them? (Shrug shoulders, pout and gesticulate).

#1Nana said...

I took French in high school too! Today I can't count past three in French and the only sentence i remember is "My name is...

I did better with Spanish, but only because I had to learn to survive living in Central America! I've got visiting France on my list of things I have to do. Want to go with me and translate?

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I'm monosyllabic in French and I'm forgetting all my Spanish . I usually speak Dutch to three year olds and hardly ever speak English at all , at the moment .
I'm thinking of semaphore ... ?.

georgia little pea said...

French is a language I can't get my tongue around. When we were in France, I did something unheard of...I let The Other Half lead and ask the questions. We almost starved there because no one could understand us and chose to ignore us at our dining table.

Friko said...

I've long lost any fluency in French I might ever have had. But I do, of course, speak English. And I'm told that my accent is indistinguishable from that of a native speaker.

Wanda..... said...

My granddaughter, who took both Spanish and later French in high school, was told she spoke French with a Spanish accent!

DJan said...

I went to see "Women of the Sixth Floor" last week, a movie in French and Spanish with subtitles. I love the sound of French and know a bit of Spanish (once was almost fluent but that's gone from disuse) and really enjoyed listening to the characters talk.

French is such an elegant language. And French speakers who speak English have an elegant accent, to my ears anyway! :-)

Olga said...

Bonjour. That's as far as I get...mostly out of insecurity. Of curse, I can be quite tongue-tied in English as well. Maybe that is why I prefer to write over talking.

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

My favorite word is les étoiles. I stayed in a small hotel on Les
Etoiles in Paris and learned how to say it, although my second language is Spanish. My French was good enough to get me around Franc on several occasions, but I wish I has studied French in school. Loved your post today. Dianne

fiftyodd said...

I adore the sound of French - also did it at school in the UK, together with German and Italian. I now speak more Afrikaans in South AFrica, but I can't get a handle on any African language. To my European ear, they have an unattractive sound and are hopelessly difficult to learn. Vive la France!

Sightings said...

I thought I spoke French un peu, but then I saw "Sarah's Key" and realized I recall very little French at all. But still ... excellent movie.

Barb said...

I didn't know you loved French. My s-i-l is French and my Grandson is bilingual. When he was just learning the alphabet, he would call me and recite it - sounded great to me (since I can't speak the language)!

Carolynn said...

I've always liked the sound of French. The Frenchman has attempted to teach me and I've learned a few phrases. I don't retain them for long though, unless I continue to use them. He tells me my pronunciation is good, so that's something. Perhaps one day, I'll be able to carry on an actual conversation with him - or better yet, someone else.

Hilary said...

I can imagine you in that caleche, discussing how the fisherman didn't catch any frogs but saw 78 stars. ;)

Being a native Montrealer, I felt right at home reading your post. Although, we Anglophones tend to call it Mun-tree-all. Yeah, sometimes I miss hearing the language, though Québécois is quite different than European Français.

Lord Wellbourne said...

My favourite: quatre-vingt-dix-neuf.

Je vous souhaite bon chance ma chere en 2012!