We had the choice in school to choose the foreign language we wanted to study. I think there were just two choices – French or Spanish. My mom encouraged my brothers to take French so I just fell in line and chose it too.
We began our language studies when we were about 12-13 I think. I remember my first French teacher vividly. He was the first French person that I ever met – and he truly was the stereotypical definition of French to my teenage world. Tall and wicked thin, thick accent like he just got off the plane wild curly hair, and I think he wore some sort of white shirt, black tie and jeans combo uniform. He was just the right mixture of outspoken, tell-it -like-it-is communicator with a dash of inappropriateness. His accent was amazingly thick and his stories grandiose. I studied with him during my time in middle school and then went on to continue my French studies all through high school and college. When I graduated from college, they found out I needed one more class to actually get my diploma – so French yet again.
I’ve never had a real ear for foreign languages. I am a ‘big picture’ kind of person, and getting the accent marks right or really understanding the tenses just really never sparked my joy. I loved hearing the language and dreaming of Paris…but always was and still am, very timid when I speak French. (Actually one sentence I can say loudly and clearly when I speak French is just that “Je suis tres timide quand je parle en Francais!”)
When I moved to London, I began travelling quite often to France and was able to bust out my knowledge. It’s not great, but I can order food, wine, ask for the check (l’addition si vous plait,) check into a hotel, explain who I am, where I come from, get about on public transportation and in cabs, and oddly, due to one missed bus when travelling with my mom, aunt and our friend….convince total strangers to give us a lift in their car. I got to really know Paris and felt very proud that I could take visiting friends around that gorgeous city with ease.
Recently this small amount of language has been put to the test at the House….for some reason the start of 2016 has brought 3 different sets of French speaking guests to the House. One funny man, when he found out I spoke French, would not speak to me in English….that check-in process took awhile. The most recent couple were fabulous and I had fun translating between them and some Canadian guests that were in the breakfast lounge. Put down your phone, no google translator needed!
Coming from that kooky French class when I was a teenager through to today – it’s amazing where life takes you, and what skills you may need when you get there.
Off to practice my past participles and dream of Paris once again….