Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I had a free trial lesson at the French school near my house today.

The Japanese receptionist greeted me from behind a desk in the makeshift office, tucked into the kitchen of a 2-story house. She asked me if I'd ever studied French. I wanted to explain that I'm Anglophone, that I studied Ancient Greek, Latin, and Italian in college, that I (supposedly) studied Spanish in junior high, and that I am now stumbling through Le Petit Prince and Penguin Parallel Text.... But halfway through, when I realized I was being a complete bore, I boiled it down to: "No."

At that point, the teacher came tearing down the stairs. (These Japanese houses were not built with the 6-foot male in mind.) The receptionist presented my essential information to him in rapid-fire French. We exchanged quick enchantes and I followed him to the "classroom", a quondam master bedroom perhaps, as he lumbered back up the stairs. And so it began.

"Je......... mmmmm'appellllllle....... LAU-RENT!! " announced the Parisien instructor. "Jjjjjje... abiiiiiite a Tokyo. Commmment. Vous. Appellez. VOUS?"

Apparently we don't share the same definition of debutante. Somehow, I managed to respond with, "Je m'appelle etta, et j'abite aussi a Tokyo." What a mistake that was. I should have added a few extra consonants and ellipses myself. Laurent laughed sheepishly.

"Ah! Pardonnez-moi. Vous pouvez parler francais! Jepensaisquevousnepouvezpasparlerfrancaisparcequeonm'aditquevousetiez
unedebutante..." At least, this is what I'm guessing he said once he reverted to normal Parisian pace. Suddenly I couldn't hear anything anymore, besides that annoying David Blunt song that I can't seem to get out of my head, because they're using it for a car commercial here. I could also feel my right eyelid begin twitching uncontrollably.

A solitary word appeared in the dim vacuum of my mind: Fuuuuuuuuuuuccccccckkk.

The instructor caught on very quickly that while my past language training has helped my comprehension of syntax and granted me an ability to guess some French vocabulary within reason, my listening skills are sub-par. He was cool about it and I ended up enjoying the lesson, although I was exhausted by the end. It also doesn't hurt that he's a cute French guy (who is married and we don't go there).

Anyway, the good news is that unbelievably, I can go straight into intermediaire, which will save me quite a bit of time and money. I still haven't committed to it but today I saw, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I will need to take proper conversation classes before I so much as think about going to Paris.

I'll call them tomorrow to apply.


Blogger la mannanista said...

mademoiselle etta, l'été is here (or as much as it will ever be -- it was raining chats et chiens yesterday) and the city awaits your arrivée with bated souffle. i know you're not planning to prendre l'avion any time before the spring semester, but let me just say we here in paris are hoping for a very fast progrès in your apprentissage of ze french. sending you many thoughts of macarons and pont l'évêque. courage!

7:42 AM  
Blogger la mannanista said...

also, you used the imparfait! correctly! that is pretty impressive, i think.

7:45 AM  
Blogger teahouse said...

Bonne chance, mademoiselle! I have studied French since I was in first grade, as a fortunate inhabitant of a part of the U.S. having beaucoup de francophones.

11:40 AM  
Blogger teahouse said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:40 AM  
Blogger e! said...

Merci THB et La M!

La M: Si tout le monde parlerait avec moi comme ca, je pense que je pourrais l'apprendre plus vite. C'est trop dificile pour moi de comprendre ce qu'on dit quand on dit seulement en francais!

(J'espere que tu puisses comprendre ce que je veux dire.)

10:10 PM  

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