When I was in 10th Grade, I made one of the more ridiculous decisions of my life.
That was the year when I was asked to choose a foreign language to study in high school.
So, did I, a young woman who lived in TEXAS, a state which borders MEXICO, choose to learn the ever practical and useful Spanish?
I chose...Francais. French, the language of amour. The language with that certain je ne sais quoi.
Because I, young sophisticate that I was, would certainly never need something as pedestrian, as... bourgeois as Spanish! Tres gauche.
I was meant for things.... aristocratic. Continental. Certainly, my future would be far beyond the borders of any place as provincial as...Texas.
In truth? I was a snotty little thing. As was my best friend, Kaysie, who had already taken a year of French, and was eager to be able to speak badly pronounced French avec moi. Which we did, often, and to the annoyance and frustration to those around us, those...uneducated friends, who didn't understand our language.
Thus I began three years of the study of French. My first French teacher? Mrs. Damon. Yes, Johanna, I'm talking about you. You, dear readers, will enjoy knowing that my high school French teacher, Mrs. Damon, reads my blog! Don't you love that?! Le monde est tres petit, non?
I remember that we were each asked to choose a French name. I was Catherine. Pronounced the French way, of course. Kaysie chose to call herself Angelique, after the lusty and tempestuous heroine of a series of trashy novels we were obsessed with. "Angelique", "Angelique in Love", "Angelique and the King". Fine literature.
We then began learning of the adventures of Paul et Therese, two French children who inhabited our French textbook. Paul et Therese would go to la bibliothèque, where they would check out un livre. "Avez-vous un crayon Therese?" "Oui Paul, je fais."
I'm afraid that for French II and French III, I did NOT have Mrs. Damon, and my French suffered. And I'm not just saying that because she's a reader, it's really true. For French II, I had a young teacher from New Jersey, who seemed afraid of us, and taught us little.
For French III, we had a teacher who was actually French, named Madame Blanchette. Madame Blanchette hated us all. We were, after all, snotty little Texas children, who must have had the WORSE pronunciation of her native language imaginable. And she was...you know...French. I also remember quite a bit of spit wad shooting (not sure how to say "spit wad" en Francais) and I also have a frightening memory of a particular project in which we created a French radio station which we gave the call letters FROG. Which I'm thinking didn't go over very well with Madame Blanchette.
I have just uncovered something I haven't looked at in many years. Here is what Kaysie wrote in my 10th Grade yearbook...
Tu seras toujours une tres bonne amie. J'ecris en francais parce que la longue est tres jolie. Je pense que vous etes une personne magnifique. Est-il necessaire pour moi a dire plus que cel? J'e'spere que dans le future nous perrons lire cette lettre et eclirons parce que ma grammaire est incomprendable. (J'ai invente ce mot "incomprendable"??)
Je t'aime toujours,
Which, roughly translated, means...
You will always be a very good girlfriend. I write in French because the long one is very pretty. I think that you are a magnificent person. Is it necessary for me has to say more than that? I hope that in the future one us perrons [not a word, apparently] to read this letter and eclirons [again, not a word] because my grammar is incomprendable. (I have invents this word "incomprendable"??) [yes, she did]
I like you always,
I hate to say it Mrs. Damon, but French has not proven to be particularly helpful for me in my life. I moved from Texas to...no, not Europe, or...Montreal, but California. A place where I am in need of the Spanish language even more than in Texas.
Alas, the only way I ever use my minimal knowledge of French nowadays is reading cosmetics bottles. Poorly. Okay very poorly. I'm afraid I have retained little.
Let's try a little test. Here is the French written on my tube of Lancome Gel Exfoliant Clarifiant (Clarifying Exfoliating Gel)...
Ce gel exfoliant doux au grain fin contient des microspheres et des extraits d'ananas et de papaye. Il s'utilise tous les jours pour eliminer le maquillage et les impurites qui ternissent le teint et sont source d'imperfections. Il laisse la peau lisse, clarifiee et rayonnant de proprete.
Appliquer sur visage et cou humides. Rincer a l'eau tiede. Eviter tout contact avec les yeux. En cas de contact, laver a l'eau.
And here is my attempt at a translation...
This exfoliating gel has the finely grained content of little balls and the extracts of bananas and papaya. It can be used all the time for eliminating the makeup and dirt that damages the tint and causes imperfections. It leaves the little skin clear and full of propriety.
Apply on the face and the humidity. Rinse with water that's...tied. Avoid all contact with the eyes. In case of contact, wash with the water.
So how'd I do? Mrs. Damon? Johanna? You there? I'm afraid it's been 30+ years since you taught me, so please forgive.
Jude has been taking Spanish since Kindergarten. He gets all A's. Which amazes me, as it's his only subject in which I can offer him absolutely ZERO help. He already knows far more Spanish than I do. I keep saying that I will someday take a class at the local community college. Which seems like a very good idea.
Or as Paul et Therese would say "Tres bien. Excellente idee!"
S'il vous plaît visiter Le Gardien de Sprite pour plus de rotations de "la langue".