I am relearning my French, digging through the morass of my oldish brain for vocab learned long ago and having the best time. Can you say pure joy? Much safer than a hormone pill, less sweaty than 30 minutes at my kickboxing studio and way more sexy. Can you say Sarkhozy and Carla? I’m online listening to a jazz radio station from Belgium and watching French talking heads deliver the news. The Middle East situation is ever so much more amusant in French.
What I do for love, this pure hobby moment has no money in it, that’s for sure. Living in SoCal I’d be much better off learning Spanish from scratch than picking up wherever I left off after 9 years of French. In fact I debated for years what to do when the kids were older and I supposedly had more time. I have no time but who cares.
So what if I could actually use Hispanic rather than mes études français in my day job as publicist to the non-stars, and therefore at least get a write-off. Who cares if no one around me speaks French, except my 17 year old daughter, et seulement un peu, but who wants to speak French avec votre mere ou avec ta teenage fille? The Internet has brought all things français to my door and it’s a wonderful world we live in.
I’ve found blogs, podcasts and websites, et aussi des livres d’enfants pas trop cher from the library book sale to help get me up to speed, which could take who knows how long but who cares. My Corsican French teacher from 7th grade who played the flugelhorn, had recorded an album and gave us so much homework by winter break the parents were protesting? Or my German French teacher from 10th and 11th grade who zapped us with quizzes as punishment when we couldn’t answer her early morning grillings? Or perhaps the 12th grade American French teacher who explained her flying lessons to us completment en français and never spoke a word of English all that year. Talk about your stress headaches. Will I ever have time for that kind of immersion again?
So I make do but with as much flair as possible. With my morning café au lait I read women stylists/photographers blogs, sometimes even in French, while I sit in my jeans, struggling with my own digital efforts to eke quaintness out of photos of big box stores and strip malls. C’est dommage mais we have no pâtisseries ici.
The BBC is my new best friend because it allows me to lire, écouter et parler in incremental lessons. And j’adore all those intense French men with the narrow glasses, spiky hair and well tied scarves posed in existential angst leaning over balconies with a Galois hanging from their sensuous lips. Bien sûr I’m married but I’m a woman d’un certain âge so I can turn to fantasy when necessary.
I found a lovely photographer-watercolorist who blogs about pastries, chocolates, elegant shops and Parisians with well-tied scarves around their neck. Paris Breakfasts. It’s like a tour bus ride without the fumes.
And then there’s the French Corner, this super everything about French blog with all sorts of links. I love links. It’s where I found the Belgium jazz. I think. I need to remember to bookmark immediately or else I’m lost in the forest without a baguette-crumb trail to lead me back.
And then, on a blog from an excellent writer, La Belette Rouge, who wishes she lived and wrote in Paris, don’t we all, I found a book, Tune Up Your French, to help me learn street French and the right body language which will help me sound like the real thing. Even as I write this post I’m practicing moving my shoulders in a je ne sais quoi kind of way. I can feel my accent improving with each shrug.
After an hour of parlez-vous’ing myself into a total flow moment I have to control myself from wishing the bank tellers ‘bon jour’. I feel so connected to the world, so cosmopolitan as I run errands with a long scarf draped artfully around my neck. Okay, so I’m living in an uber-suburb. Can you say let’s pretend?
So what is the photo of a torn, well loved petit larrouse at the top of the post you ask? That’s my French dictionary from elementary school. I needed a new one, très triste, because this poor bébé crumbles a little more every time je le bouge. See below. No patina. I need to take it to a café and spill a little coffee on it to break it in.
Now, excusez-moi while I conjugate a few verbs before I run errands and throw smoldering glances at my favorite bank teller. À bientôt.