I’ve had a month of lessons two nights per week at the Alliance Francaise, free for two months through Ray’s work at the University. My teacher is young, beautiful and funny and the students are adorable. I use the word adorable because I am old enough to be the mother of each and every one of them. We were practicing our “dates de naissance” and I felt a little embarrassed because the dates everyone else shared were after I graduated from college. Up until that moment I thought we were contemporaries. Ah, facing the new realities.
I’m lucky because even though there is only one other American and one British guy in the class, everyone else speaks English, too. Students are from Iran, Italy, India, Germany, Mauritius and Spain, but our common language is English. During one class I was thinking how difficult French is to learn and then the young woman from Iran showed me her notes – they were written in Persian, which she had translated from the English the teacher was speaking into French. Gave me a little perspective.
Going back to French numbers, I think the reason French students are so good at math even though based on Téa’s experience they don’t spend much time in school is this: to count in French you have to add and multiply constantly. Seventy does not have it’s own name, it’s sixty plus ten, soixante- dix. Eighty is quatre-vingts, four times twenty. Ninety is quatre-vingts – dix, (4 x 20) + 10. It’s hard enough to count in another language without this additional mental math, so I usually just hand over my largest bill when a cashier tells me the price. Which means I have a lot of coins. And since there is a two euro coin, I am often carrying around about twenty dollars in change in my purse. I do use those for our daily two-baguette purchase so I’m not too worried about spending all of them.
In class, the teacher dedicates a lot of time to learning spellings and whether a word is masculine or feminine. Frankly I don’t really care about that. I want to be able to go into a store and ask for something or understand when someone is speaking a simple sentence to me. I’m always so happy when I can and do, but I know there is so much I am missing. Take this example. On Friday the cleaning woman, who comes once a month said, “Bonjour,” and I thought, “Isn’t it a beautiful day.” “Oui, Oui, I know,” I agreed and then Téa whipered, “Mom, she just said, ‘You look beautiful.'”
Back to the books!