Long ago, I stated that I would learn to speak French before I died and suppose the good news is, it appears that I will be alive for long time yet.
It’s been 7 years since we moved to France. Before moving, I planned to learn my new country’s mother tongue before residing here permanently in December, 2010. I figured it might take 3-6 months if I completely immersed myself, so I listened to French language CD’s on my hour long commute to work. I downloaded French language and the Le Monde news apps on my phone. We took weekly French lessons and I tried to implement “let’s only speak French at the dinner table” with Hank and Caleigh even though they were never quite as keen on the idea as I was.
Guess who is fluent and earning a degree in language and literature?
Guess who couldn’t conjugate a verb if his life depended on it, but everyone seems to understand better than me?
No, I’m the one who used to practically do a Heil Hitler salute when someone began speaking to me due to my nervousness and probably a subconscious desire for the French speaker to slow the hell down. I’m the one looking like a deer in the headlights and found myself standing awkwardly at our neighbor’s party recently seemingly unable to utter the most basic response when asked a simple question. I was apparently so bad in fact, that this French charmer felt it was her duty to let me know it and berate me publically right then and there.
Insert incredulous french accent here: “I not believe you live here during seven year and you not talk French,” she said. “How is that even possible? How are you surviving?” she continued while I mustered enough courage and responded to her to the best of my ability. I explained that I actually understood a lot more than it might appear, but I had to admit that I was not as good at speaking French as I would have hoped by now and was why I continued going to French classes and studied every day. J’essaie (I am trying.) I wasn’t sure if I wanted to deck her or cry as my eyes were stinging.
But she was right. I should be fluent by now and it is terribly embarrassing that I am not. I really want to carry my conversations to the next level and get beyond weather, children and work questions, not-to-mention, to not feel so freaking awkward at functions where English is not spoken. Here it was only 7pm and all I wanted was to go home rather than risk another cringe worthy episode as we were the only non French people there so it was going to be a long night. But we did not. Hank defended me as he always does and explained in his completely unconjugated vocabulary while pronouncing each and every consonant, that I actually spoke fine French. Ha! He was amazing and managed to talk me down from my self-imposed cliff and we ended up staying for the duration as everyone else was kind and patient as the majority of French people have always been with us.
Cruela ended up going inside and did not appear to socialize with anyone throughout the night, so perhaps it wasn’t just me she had the issue with. Maybe it had to do with Le Pen losing last week...
Whatever the reason, she’s given me the kick I needed to make this fluency thing a priority. Just to prove her wrong would be reason enough, but I know deep down that this is for me and that I can do it. Jamais arretez - never stop (give up)!