French Lessons Part Two

The phone call I’d been dreading finally came.  I’d been hunting for a teacher of French to adults for a few weeks, as my son is going to French Club summer school over the course of five mornings in the school holidays, and I wanted to make better use of the time spent waiting for him than sitting on my derriere in the local coffee houses as if I have no home of my own.  I thought I would splash out on a few French lessons for myself, just to keep things interesting.  It will certainly be that!  I studied French at school, and was good at it but that was over twenty something a few years ago and apart from our holiday in Disneyland a few weeks ago, I’ve barely used it since.

Anticipation often proves to be worse than the actual event and so it was in my phone call with Isabelle.  I really shouldn’t have worried; we ended up talking for twenty minutes.  She wanted to know a bit about me and my family, why I wanted the lessons and what I hoped to gain from them over the course of the week.  We had a lovely chat and she put me completely at ease.  My French teacher at school was a bit like Isabelle, so I’m sure we will get on famously.  The lessons are scheduled for a few weeks hence: more about them another time.

I’ve got homework already!  I didn’t expect that.  I’ve been asked to write an email, in French, to Isabelle, telling her about myself and my family, what I like to do in my leisure time (in my what?), whether I work, things I might want to cover in class, that kind of thing.  She asked me on the phone whether I have paid work and I think I said, in French, I am a mum – je suis la maman.  This made her fall about laughing, so whether that was a really witty answer or completely mangled syntax, I have yet to discover.  I am discovering how very small changes to the language can completely alter the meaning.  For example, Michael Wright, in his book C’est la Folie (which I’ll be blogging about another day), while flying his small plane tries to tell air traffic control that he has the wind behind him and is coming in to land and to take off again immediately – a touch and go.  He ends up sounding as if he’s troubled by last night’s baked beans and is coming in for a quick feel (une touche rather than un touche, I believe).   Sarah Turnbull, in her book Almost French, which I wrote about a few days ago, is helping her partner find his smoking apparatus and instead unwittingly offers him a sexual service (une pipe rather than ton pipe).  As you can imagine, both scenarios are the cause of much merriment to those within hearing distance.  The possibilities for linguistic embarrassment seem endless and I’m sure I will discover some of the deepest recesses of that particular pit before I’m too much older.   Maybe I will blog about those, too.  In the meantime, I’ve some ancient French to brush up on, in order to avoid completely disgracing myself.  Wish me luck.

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10 Responses to French Lessons Part Two

  1. Zazzy says:

    You aren’t really worried about disgracing yourself, are you? If so I could find all those many bits of advice about how you have to risk failure in order to succeed… :) I’m very excited for you. Those small changes in spelling and pronunciation seem particularly tricky but kind of fun at the same time.

    • Zazzy, I think I can understand a fair bit, written and spoken word, but I have trouble reproducing that when it’s my turn to speak. So I’ll know what I’m supposed to say, but won’t know the words! Very frustrating. I have a Studio Session on Rosetta Stone tomorrow, which is 50 minutes with a live coach, so we’ll see after that how bad I am!

  2. Well done for getting started – I really love your light bubbly style of writing. Its very eloquent but there’s something so light, and lyrical (you used this word to aptly describe Mummy Plum too) about it. Gosh, the nuances of language – I’m sure you’ll be great given your passion and enthusiasm. I’m really enjoying these French posts.

    • Thanks OM. Lessons are scheduled for a few weeks time, during the school holidays. In the meantime I’m doing some Rosetta Stone courses, which I have to say I am very impressed with at the moment. I’m always surprised by how, even amongst the English speaking world, there are subtle differences in language. I can think of a couple of completely innocuous words used in America which would cause a snigger or two over here.

  3. Ally Bean says:

    I’m no good at speaking languages other than English, so I’m in awe of you being able to say anything at all in French. To me it seems like you’re a success already– and the lessons will be merely refining what you already have going on. Have fun, learn lots.

    • Thanks Ally, it’s already proving to be lots of fun, including all the new tales I have to blog about. Today’s wierd thing: A deer is Un Cerf, a kite is Un Cerf-Volant. A flying deer? Que?

  4. Claire@Mummy Plum says:

    So glad the phone call was a success and the lessons are set to start soon. I wish you could bottle your determination for new projects and send some of it to me! I’m finding your French journey very inspiring Polly. You make France and all things french seem far more exciting than the small world of La Rochelle that dominated my lessons from the Tricolore text book in the 1980’s!

    • Thanks Claire, but I can’t help thinking that you are very tenacious too, particularly about little Pip(ette)2. I liked French at school but I have to say I am enjoying it more now! To have a bit of a wider perspective is a wonderful thing.

  5. Suzanne says:

    Its a weird feeling going back to ‘school’ when you’re our age isn’t it?! I used to speak French a very long time ago but it’s gone so rusty now, it’s a shame :( good luck! I will look forward to reading more about you lessons!

    • Suzanne, it is a weird feeling, but somehow better, because I can see the value in it now, whereas I didn’t really, then, or not in the same way. I’m really looking forward to it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.