Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Je Suis En Retard

Ooh! I forgot to tell you about my Frenchman experience from the other night, didn't I? It's not nearly as funny or risqué as it sounds, especially when I refer to it as "The Frenchman Experience", but I feel we've bonded, my anonymous Internet peepsters, so that means that you are now subject to my every waking thought. Until you stop reading, anyway.

Please don't stop reading me! I love you! I can change!!

As a reminder to write about The Experience, I've been walking around all day with the word "French" scrawled on my arm. That in itself amused me. I found myself wondering what people would think if I suddenly died on my way home, and when they found me I would just have this word and no other explanation on my body. Would they think that I'd decided to take up learning the language of luuuurve, several years after taking my GCSE in it and immediately forgetting most of what I'd learned? Maybe they'd see it as a request for a French themed funeral. I hoped for the latter. They could serve everyone baguettes, and all my friends and family could mourn me in kicky little berets and drawn on curly moustaches....sigh. I might go home with the word French written on me every day now. Just incase.

So, The Frenchman Experience... Anyone who's ever learned French in school and not bothered to take it any further that that knows that the sentences they teach you are pretty much totally useless, unless you are in very specific situations. Here are some of the scant sentences I recall from my teens (nobody is allowed to pick these apart - accuracy unlikely here):

- Je suis maladroit: I am clumsy (actually, forget that one. Quite useful).

- Je porter mons pantalons: I wear my trousers. When will I ever need to tell a French person I'm wearing my trousers? This should be a given, shouldn't it? If you have to inform people that you are wearing trousers, then maybe you need to re evaluate your life...

- Ou est la gare?: where is the train station? I don't intend to get lost in France anytime soon, so doubt I'll require this one.

My personal favourite by far, though is "Je suis en retard" - "I am late". Not especially funny, but when you're twelve, and your classmate is being forced by the teacher (who knows what she's doing, she knows!) to tell the class that they are sorry that they are "retard", nothing is funnier.

But, but! On Monday night, I actually got one of these phrases used at me! I had the opportunity to communicate in basic French! I was traipsing down the dark, creepy alley between the gym and my car, behind a lanky and unthreatening looking gentleman with a backpack. In a world of my own, probably fantasising about food (note: I'm never not fantasising about food), I very nearly had a coronary when my tall fellow perambulator suddenly stopped and whirled around to look directly at me. I had such a fright that I didn't hear what he'd said.

"S-sorry?" He smiled, amused at my baffled lady-shock of been suddenly turned on in a dark alley.

"Ou est" he repeated amicably "la gare?"

YES!! I knew this one! I understood what a French guy was saying! And I knew where the train station was. Today was a good day! I beamed at him triumphantly.

And then remembered that I don't know the response to that question in French. Only how to ask it. Trying not to let my inner turmoil show, I continued manically grinning and gestured dramatically up the street we'd just turned off. I think it was my visual equivalent of that speaking in English VERY LOUDLY AND SLOOOWLY that us Brits like to employ when faced with foreign language speakers.

I've never seen a person move so quickly. I didn't even get a "merci". Spose I'd do the same thing in his shoes, if I'd asked him a sensible question and just got mad grinning and flapping in response. Ce'st la vie.

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