Monday, August 08, 2011

Je parle un peu de français...but not much

As a kid I remember watching old reruns of the "Addam's Family" and laughing at how Gomez would become suddenly amorous when Morticia would drop a French turn of phrase, kissing his way up her arm after loudly (and obviously) declaring, "Tish -- that's French!"

Now, although it is one of the Romance Languages, I hardly think that being able to speak it would have men falling at my feet a la Gomez, but lately I have had the yen to learn more French. I'm not sure what use it would be to me (I barely use my Spanish these days, truth be told), aside from just the sheer desire to learn something new. And while France isn't at the top of my countries-to-visit list, it is there, and it would be nice to have un soupçon of knowledge.

The idea struck me again the other night when I picked up a mystery set in fin de siecle Paris. And it's not really a new thought, though, me wanting to learn French. For years I've been somewhat fascinated by the language. When I was younger, being of a nerdy, bookish persuasion (moi?) and reading a lot of classics from the Regency and Victorian periods of English literature, I was often stymied by phrases, sentences or sometimes whole paragraphs of French thrown into the text, and lamented the lack of foot or end notes to help me understand. It was only later that I realized there wasn't such a key because the books were likely written for members of the upper classes who probably flitted across the Channel to the Continent with regularity and could speak French just as well as their mother tongue. That, or I just needed better editions with a glossary included.

At any rate, when it came time to choose a language to study in high school, I did briefly ponder French (after a course in eighth grade where French, along with Spanish and Latin, were each taught for six weeks), but settling on Spanish was practically a fait accompli, for several practical reasons. A) I lived in Florida, and B) my mom is a Spanish teacher, so (although she wouldn't be my teacher) I wouldn't have to travel farther than my kitchen should help be required. :)

I did love the elegant way the French words sounded, though. Ever since that six-week course, I've (quite randomly) enjoyed saying the number 60: soixante. Such a softly sibilant, fancy word for a number. :) The rest of my rather limited French vocabulary, aside from some basic counting and knowledge of various French foods, consists of "je m'appelle Anne" and, thanks to Renaissance, my high school's major fundraiser (it had a different theme every year and saw the seniors, costumed, pair off to greet guests and walk around showing silent auction items) called "An Evening in Paris," learned "bienvenue a Paris" and a few other sundry words and phrases. Somewhere along the line, from a TV show, I think, I also picked up "mon petit chou," although I don't have much cause to use the (admittedly odd) term of endearment "my little cabbage" on anyone.

My last foray into learning something new (the piano) was short lived (although that was due to my piano teacher moving away, rather then me up and quitting...although I admittedly haven't sought another instructor), and, aside from taking a class, which I'm not sure I can fit into my work schedule, I'm pondering getting a book or two and trying to learn French my own. Yet I wonder if it will go the same way as my brief flirtation with embroidery (it's only been 10 years since I almost finished the first of that pair of pillowcases) or, even better (worse?), my hope to learn Gaelic when I was 12 or 13. Though I have to say, French is a somewhat more practical selection than Gaelic. 

At any rate, we shall see. For now I will wish you a bonne nuit.

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