French Class (Oh, mon dieu.)

So! French class! Oui! I promised to give you a full run-down of how the day went, but here’s the condensed version: I love French. I love the language. I wish I’d given it  all my attention in high school when it was free and daily (comment dit-on: “hindsight is 20/20?”) or majored in it in college. I think I would have gotten the same amount of use out of a French degree as I have my Photojournalism degree, but at least I would have been fluent and maybe gotten to study abroad. IN PARIS.

Anyway, le classe. The Basic class was a group of 7, all adults in their 50s-60s and one smoking-hot Canadian girl whose last name was actually “French” COME ON. There were 8 at first but one lady got too overwhelmed and moved next door to the Beginner class. Honestly, I thought that was going to be me, but just like when we were in France and Belgium in May, I was surprised by how much of the language I actually retained. The entire 6 hours was en Français, and I could understand 95% of what was happening. Now, this was probably because the teachers (native French women, who took 3 hour shifts) were speaking slower and less colloquially and using lots and lots of hand gestures, but still. Rachel, the second teacher, made a joke en Français and I got it. Guys, I don’t even understand jokes in English sometimes (my mom can back me up on this). The problem I have isn’t comprehension, it’s the lack of confidence in formulating responses and sounding like I know what I’m saying. As much as I need to work on my participe-passes (past participles!) I need to work on not worrying I sound comme un gauche Américaine. 

We worked on the comparatif: plus de/que (more than), moins de/que (less than), autant de/que (the same as); we studied French advertisements and explained what was going on (jeu de mot: word-play!); described ourselves, asked questions about other people in the class; read an essay on the differences between child-rearing in America and France (newsflash: the French think we are too lenient with our kids). Whenever we tried to slip into English (even to say, “Oh god, what’s the word for…?”) Rachel or Julie would promptly repeat, “En Francais, s’il vous plait!” It was just like being back in 10th grade French class, only I couldn’t bribe the teacher with ice cream from the vending machine in the cafeteria to skip class and hang out with my best friend (that happened. On more than one occasion). I came home with lots of hand-outs and useful notes, and was told I have nice skin and a good French accent. And I am so, so glad I did went. It was totally worth it. I’m so excited for the 10 week course that starts in December.

Semi-related: do you know how much it takes out of you just to sit in a metal folding chair all day? My body was literally not conditioned for it, I don’t know how I sat through school all day everyday for so long. Mon derrière etait fatigue apres six heures (“My ass was tired after 6 hours.”)

Semi-related part 2: I still remember a song we learned in 11th grade French about making participles agree with the subject in the past-imperfect tense. It was a list of verbs, and if you asked any Masterman alum to sing it right now, they could. And now that I’ve mentioned it I have to sing it, but you won’t get the full effect of the melody. “Aller, venir, entrer, sortir, monter, desecendre, arriver, partir, rester, retourner, tomber, mourir, et nâitre avec être: le participe-passe s’accord avec le sujet (revenir, devinir, rentrer).”

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November 19, 2012 / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 29

29 comments

  • Oh wow I’m so glad you had a brillaint time! I would be intimidated and terrified to do a whole class in French. What a clever girl you are, I’m so pleased for you.

    newsflash: the French think we are too lenient with our kids – see, this is what irritates me about the french ‘we dress better’, ‘we eat better’, ‘we raise our children better’. They are the most arrogant nation on earth and I don’t know why you Americans keep flattering their egos! They cannot ever concede that another country might do things well too. Like In why French women don’t get fat and she tried to make out the French invented pasta! huh.

    but this will make you envious: Richard’s aunt has just bought a farmhouse in the dordogne. For th family to use. woop woop!

    • Why do we keep flattering their egos?? I can name a million reasons of the top of ma tête: Renoir, Monet, Rodin, Debussy, Massenet, Chopin, Balzac, Maupassant, Proust, Rabelais, Flaubert, de Saint-Exuprey, Gustave Eiffel & La Tour Eiffel, Coco Chanel, les frites, Haussmann buildings, YSL, Hemes, Diptyque, Ladurée, the Louvre, the d’Orsay, 35 hour work weeks, CHEESE, 5 weeks paid vacation leave, and the list goes on and on and on. I think we have enough ground to keep complimenting their culture. They seem to be doing something right. I’d be cocky too if I were them!

      Clearly I was born in the wrong country. xoxo

  • Bien joué! I took french in 8th grade, on the first day I was singled out and had to repeat what the teacher said for the class in what he called my “perfect french accent;” but my lack of confidence and probable undiagnosed dyslexia led me down a road of failure – like with an F. After that french terrified me (it was a long way to fall from the top to the bottom in one little day). I moved on to Spanish in collage where I also have confidence issues but at least I was able to at least get a’s. I also understand and know words but when trying to make sentences out of it I freeze up. But I really want to try French again, I feel robbed!

    • Oh my gosh, Christine! That’s so traumatizing! No wonder you didn’t do well in class, I think I would have had problems with the language after being put on parade like that. My nerves are really what gets to me, I just need to feel comfortable speaking. I can read/write/hear the language a lot better than I can speak it! You should take classes again when you have time! It’s really fun, I promise. xoxo

  • I pretty much fear that I’m going to sound comme un gauche Américaine all the time here. In America. So I feel your pain. And isn’t it exciting to have discovered something you truly love. That you could do all day long everyday? I’m beyond happy for you and I can’t wait for you to say things to me that I can’t understand. Would LOVE to know another language, but I fear those days have passed me by.

    • Hahahaha “all the time here. In America.” Well yeah, that happens to me too. So no wonder I have problems in another language. I think it stems from my very ridiculous desire to be French so I get nervous speaking because I know some native speaker is going to hear me and say, “Pshh, stupid American!” Merci for your kind words, ma cherie. xoxo

  • Perhaps, that was my mistake all these years…I told you Yiddish Jokes in English! Ou, je vous ai dit des blagues juives en anglais! Or, perhaps, it was simply that they were Jewish jokes and we know how the French feel and felt about the Jews. If only I had known you may have understood the train platform joke.
    Love your use of B&W for that…oh so French Cinema Noir effect!

    • Oh, ma mere. Tu es maginifique! But yeah, the Yiddish jokes are lost on me in any language, unfortunately. Not even French can help me understand Jewish humour, which, by the way, I still contend is an oxy moron. The jokes are unfunny. En Francais, s’il vous plait!

  • Well done, that’s very impressive. I never learned French but just love the sound of it.

    • It is the most beautiful language, it really is. You should learn! Haha everyone should learn French!

  • Well done, you! I do think French is a beautiful language. I often joke that a person speaking French could say the most foul thing and it would still sound poetic. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn French in school, I learned Spanish, which is most useful on this side.
    Speaking of French movies, have you seen City of Lost Children? Same director as Amelie and costume design by Jean Paul Gaultier – Very French. (A little dark though.)
    PS~Hm, I thought the French thought we were too strict with our children. According to Bringing Up Bebe, we hover too much. :)

    • It’s so true that the French could say something so crass and crude and I’d still be totally enchanted. I always joke that if someone speaks French at me long enough I’ll just spontaneously end up naked. Ahem. ;)
      I haven’t seen City of Lost Children, which I know is totally shameful of me! I need to get on that. But I can’t tear myself away from my old favorites long enough, haha. I’ll add it to my list, thank you for the recommendation! I haven’t read Bringing up Bebe but the essay we did read said that children in America are given more freedom in public while in France, your children reflect directly on you so they are taught to be proper and polite in public. And they potty train them standard at 2 years old there! That was interesting. I can translate it and send it to you if you want! xoxo

  • Annie cracks me up, nothing like hearing a bit of stark reality. France is wonderful, apart from the French!

    But back to what’s important here, Erin I’m really pleased you had fun in your class, the teachers threw you all head-long into it didn’t they, I’d have s**t myself big time. I feel your pressure with speaking the language fluidly. When I studied it, I never thought that speaking French with an Essex accent sounded attractive, accurate or was particularly easy on anybody’s ear. x

    • Hahah, I remember you saying that when we hung out! France is lovely, apart from the French. I don’t know, you guys, I’m still holding out hope that some dashing Frenchman swoops in and wants to give me a beautiful apartment :)

      At least an Essex accent is still a British accent; generally that’s a more soothing sound than nasally American! Can you imagine a southerner speaking French? I wouldn’t even try. I actually laughed out that you’d shit yourself over an Immersion course like this one. It wasn’t so bad, I promise!

  • Le sigh… All of this reminds me of my college French classes! Wish I had time to get my minor in it but at this point I just want to graduate! I will live vicariously through you!

    • Haha don’t start adding classes to your roster now, girl! Get that diploma and then you can take fun French classes on the side once you graduate. They’re cheaper than college credits, too! xoxo

  • It’s so great to hear that you enjoyed your class. I also wish that I had worked harder when I took French in High School but it just wasn’t my thing, English wasn’t either but somehow I made it work ;) Even did a student exchange with a school Toulouse but not much stuck from that time. The funny thing I remember is that our French lesson book had a Crêpe recipe in it that a friend and I tried out at home, of course we used my Dads Cocnag and not just the tablespoon that the recipe required ;) Of course I got into trouble because of it…Why would a schoolbook for 14 year olds print something like that? ;)

    • You studied abroad in Toulouse?? I’d love to hear all about that! Though first I’d like to hear more about that crepe story, haha. I mean, obviously the French are a bit more open about alcohol with kids and stuff, but to print it in a textbook? Now I’m going to go back and see if any of my text books had something fun like that in there! I’m imagining 14 year old you pissed and giggling and eating crepes :) xoxo

      • It was a student exchange during high school, I think I spent two (or three?) weeks living with a family in Toulouse, had to go to school there etc. and the girl I stayed with came to Germany for the same time after…I had a blast but my french didn’t really profit from it ;)

  • Nice skin and a good French accent. My dear, what more do you need?! I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it so much. And I’m sure you sound way better than you give yourself credit for.

    • Right? Haha, I think my life’s mission is complete with those two compliments. I really had such a good time, can’t you tell?? :)

  • good on you erin! sounds like a great way to spend a day (apart from the butt fatigue)… believe it or not, i could actually understand most of your written french (before you translated it) from having studied it for a year at uni (and that was a looooooong time ago)! so obviously the brain is a marvellous thing indeed! remind me to tell you one day about the video of me & my french speaking that’s out there in the universe somewhere… very funny!
    as for the french, i can only speak of my experience with parisians… & i found all it took was having befriended one local and it seemed as if i had the key to the city… i’ve never been made to feel so at home, driven everywhere, wined & dined (real style, in people’s homes), taken to parties & made to feel like family… i have nothing but the best memories of my times there & the people i’ve met :)

    • Our brains really are fabulous things, aren’t they? The things they hold onto that you aren’t even aware of. I want to see this French speaking video!! I bet it’s a gas. Was it for school or for fun?
      And I share your opinions of the Parisians. Everyone I’ve interacted with has always been kind and polite and exceedingly helpful. They get such a bad rap, I think, rather unjustly. Sure they’re a little snooty, but not ALL of them. Just like Philadelphians get accused of being violent sports fans, and I can attest I’ve never seen a fight in my life at any sporting event here. People like to piggyback on stereotypes :) I want to hear all about your Parisian adventures! xoxo

  • You are a bad ass. Six hours in a plastic school seat is worthy of heaps of praise.

    Also, 6 hours of intensive French is…well, intense! I recall my horror intensive lessons (shared with a Saudi gynecologist named Osama, NO JOKE) and I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Learning French for me was hard because I already speak German, which we all know is full of precise rules and regulations as to it’s usage, so learning a language liberally peppered with useless noises like “bahhhhhhhh”, “uhhhhhhhhhhhhh” “mmoooooooouuuiiiiiii” seemed impossible! Blame it on 14 years in the Vaterland, I suppose. Plus when I would get all flappy and nervous and forget a vocab word, I’d just replace it with a German one. Much to everyone I ever spoke to’s confusion. Poor French. I butchered it.

    But you, I’m certain, will not! Il faut, hein?

    • Wait wait wait. A Saudi gyno named Osama? Man, I bet he had a hard time rustling up new patients! Going to the gyno is traumatizing enough without adding to it! And he was learning French? What were your classes like?? I’m surprised Banoo didn’t just teach you! He’s French, after all, isn’t he? I always thought it was easier to learn one language when you knew another one already, but I guess that’s only true of the romance languages? But you defined my exact problem perfectly: flappy and nervous. C’est moi! xo

  • How fun – I always day dream about how fun it would be to go back and brush on my Spanish (that I took in college, for heavens sake) or Chinese. But I also think one of the wonderful thing about classes as an adult and extracurricular activity is that it’s totally your choice to do it – no pressure at all

  • Good job girl! You will have to go to France soon though to améliorer ton francais encore plus ;-) What was the joke? God, you should hear when french young people talk in slang. They cut off every word just to save time, say “ouf”, instead of “fou”. Write “keske” instead of “qu’est-ce que” It’s awful, even I only understand like 60 % of that! And that’s 30 year olds speaking like that. I used to speak in slang as well. When I was 15, haha! I’m telling you, foreigners speak better french than the french :-P

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