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Feb 152014
 

“It’s easy to get the feeling that you know the language just because when you order a beer they don’t bring you oysters…” Julia Childs

First of all let me state for the record that I find French to be a beautiful language. Hearing it spoken is like listening to Debussy or Ravel. It is melodic and it is expressive. The brief exchange between two friends or between a shopkeeper and a customer is like a song, … but I don’t know the words.

I am not good at speaking or understanding the French language. My most used phrase is:

“J’ai ne parle pas Francais, parle vous un peu Anglais?”

Which I think means:

“I do not speak French, do you speak a little English”

They generally reply saying that they do not speak much English but when they try, they proceed to be rather fluent and I instantly forget all French vocabulary that I know. So, we speak English.

This works, but does not help me learn the language.

The other end of the spectrum is when I DO know how to say something, i.e. I have studied diligently and memorized a phrase:

“Ou sont les escalliers pour Mont Saint Claire”

Which I think means:

“Where are the stairs for Mont Saint Claire”

My pronunciation is perfect, the grammar is good, and the … well it works perfectly. It is obvious that they understand and they reply quickly and in long eloquent passages accompanied by demonstrative hand gestures. I, on the other hand, am thinking “Huh?” But, I reply:

“Tres bein, Merci beaucoup”

In reality all I really understood was the demonstrative hand gestures. And I have enjoyed listening.

In my defense, I did ask the same question of  three different people, and understood little but the demonstrative hand gestures. We tried and they tried.

We did not find the stairs to Mont Saint Claire.

There is much studying to do, though I must admit that my language skills have improved markedly in the past 10 days, just don’t ask the French.

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Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Just a few images from our walks (11 miles total for the day) about Montpellier.

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