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.