Friday, September 4, 2009

Frenchy, Frenchy, haw haw haw

I was 21 when France conducted what turned out to be its last nuclear 'test' at Moruroa in 1996, and I remember saying (with all the wisdom of a gangly-legged 21 year old): "No-one's gonna wanna learn French now," like that was the most important part of the whole ugly situation.

[When I first launched into that sentence I wrote "I was 11 when France conducted..." then I ran the numbers again and realised that I was in fact 21 at the time. I don't know what's worse: that I can't add up or that I was 21 when I made such a lame comment.]

Anyway, now that I'm older and heavily under the influence of cliches I must tell you I'm all hot and bothered (in a va-va-voom way) about France. I bought the corniest two-CD set today, Cafe De Paris: 50 Grands Succes Francais, which I think translates to If You Are Suffering From Brain Softening, Buy This Product. In my defense it only cost $10, but that aside, it's all part of a new project: I want to teach myself French.

I've always been put off learning a language because I have zero capacity for mimicry, but today (around the time I bought the CD) I thought maybe I could learn to read French and never have to utter a word. Sure it's a weird and isolating way to do it, but it might just work.

So of course I rushed home and pulled out the kids' French book my darling Mum gave me last time I had a wacky French language-related idea and came across this on page one:

This is my kind of learning! I was pretty sure I knew what "Waf! Waf!" meant, and absolutely positive I was on top of "Krwak!" having uttered it myself in similarly corn-ball situations. This language learning thing is going to be a breeze. I reckon I could skip straight to Les Miserables, provided it's illustrated.


Evil Overlord said...

i think i knew someone once, who was trying to teach themselves a language, but i can't remember who it was, or which language, but I DO remember, that they put postit notes on EVERYTHING, every item in the pantry/fridge, every piece of furniture in their house, named in the other language, so that as they moved about their daily life, she would call and think of it in french/german/italian/whatever it was.

squib said...

What a strange coincidence, Kettle. Not that I am learning animal French or that I said the same thing as you (I was 22 and I said, 'no one will want to buy Peugeots now') but for some strange reason I am reading one French novel after the other

Currently Madame Bovary, before that Therese Raquin, 20 Thousand Leagues, and the Count (as you must OF COURSE know as an avid follower of my Shelfari shelf). And now I can't seem to stop because I'm thinking Voltaire then maybe The Scarlet Pimpernel...

Kettle said...

That's a great idea, Evil Overlord (and will save me working through Les Mis with a dictionary). I only hope the post-its don't become unstuck in gentle breezes. Imagine: I'll get the champagne mixed up with the dishwashing liquid. La blech.

Squib, although I was wrong about people not wanting to learn French post-Muoroa I'm pretty sure you were right about Peugeots. They don't still sell those things, do they?

I wonder why our Francophilia at the moment? While mine is as yet largely unrealised (apart from my CD and, as you so beautifully described it, my animal French) yours is steadily gaining momentum. And what a line-up ahead of you: Voltaire (the Dictionnaire? Candide perhaps?) followed by The Scarlet Pimpernel... There simply isn't time to go to work, is there?

Anonymous said...

As part of the curriculum at the snobby school i attended, french was mandatory - except if you chose old world but still in use (i.e. inter alia) latin. From those basic frenchy linguistic insights, only one word still remains deep in my very limited french vocab - bibliotheque. What a great word to describe a building full of books!

Kettle said...

I agree, Anon! From this point forward let us renounce 'library' and use only 'bibliotheque'. When 'library' becomes as charming and connotative a word as 'bibliotheque' we may opt to use it as well, but for the time being 'library' is but a dusty and flat-roofed demountable in a carpark somewhere.

Oddly enough, the only phrase I can remember from German is 'Ich bin hungrig' which is completely devoid of charm.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your Frenchy linguistic insights.

the projectivist said...

i'm not going to bother learning French, Mme Kettle.
not when i know that i can rely on your language skills whilst we're trawling about Paris.

Kettle said...

Krwak, Ms P! I know le nought. Although, I did once hear two older Americans in a cafe in Paris say to their waiter "mer-cee, mer-cee very much" so we'll probably be ok.

So, when are we flying out?

the projectivist said...

as soon as we land ourselves a couple of rich sugardaddies.

as soon as that happens, we'll go shopping for a brand new trousseau, have our hair done at one of those salons that has the head thingies that you sit under (remember them?) whilst we smoke cigarettes and sip strong coffee.

whatever happened to those head thingies? did they die out?

word verification:


Kettle said...

Excellent, Ms P! Logistically speaking, how does one find a sugardaddy? Is it a category on those online dating sites? Failing that, I'm happy to wait for Mr Darcy to be brought to life.

Those hair thingies still exist! Except now, in this wacky modern world, they have long bendy arms that you can twist and spin any which-way across a salon, which is all very convenient and slick, but the joy was in the row of ladies, don't you think? Reading Voltaire, discussing the rights and wrongs of John F. Kennedy, developing plans for world domination... *sigh*.