Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I Speak French

We went to the Jardin today. I picked up the kids from school, drove to the Jardin, ate a picnic lunch, dropped my son off at golf and then walked around the park with my daughter. The first thing we do is head to the pond to feed the ducks and swan. I crunch up all the old baguettes from the week and we throw it to the birds. This week, since it’s been cold and that means fewer visitors, the birds were really hungry. While feeding the ducks, which are a safe distance away, the pigeons started swarming around us. It was getting a bit creepy and my daughter was really scared. Guess she won't be watching The Birds for a while.

After we fed the ducks we headed to the playground since it was a nice enough day out. There was only one other child in the park. I sat down to watch my daughter as she climbed the Eiffel Tower climbing apparatus. I was sitting on this colorful bench when this kid comes by. I really don't feel like getting up from my spot to let him walk on the bench past me and he sees my hesitation. He tells me, in French, that where I'm sitting is actually something to play on and I should move. I tell him back in French that it is a place for parents to sit and not something to play on. He looks up with big eyes and says "Vous etes Anglais?" I didn't explain I was American not English.

For the last few years when asked if I was fluent, I'd say no but that I could speak playground French. I really thought I'd gotten good over the years. I have many phrases at my disposal, for instance: "ca suffit/that's enough!" "arrete/stop!" "viens ici/come here" "sois gentil/be nice." What a blow to my ego that a 5 year old French kid figures out from my accent that I am an English speaker. I guess the kid couldn't believe what he had discovered and he climbs up the Eiffel Tower to talk to my daughter. I hear her raising her voice saying, in French, "I speak French and my big brother does too!" She walked away from the annoying boy.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
7:05 PM



Yeah! You tell that petit con! (kidding) People ask me all the time if I'm English too and sometimes, "T'es allemande?" I can't figure that one out. I'm half tempted to say, "Ja" and let it go. I wish I didn't have an accent sometimes, but what bugs me more is when my students insist that I don't speak English. I speak American, which every good French person should know is just an inferior form of proper English (not that that many English people actually speak that...)

# posted by Kate : 9:15 PM  

Kate, I think the French always assume that English speakers are English. I'm not sure if anyone has ever asked if I'm American. Not sure why. Regarding "speaking American" don't you wonder about those subway ads that proclaim "learn American business language." What do they teach??

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 11:45 PM  

I've been told to learn French. I love the language... now. I didn't at school. Your phrases will come in handy, thank you. Paris is beautiful. I would love to pay it an extended visit... but only if I can talk to people.

# posted by Chris : 12:02 AM  

A couple of weeks after I arrived, I was coming home from the grocery and someone stopped me to ask the time. 'Course I panicked, like I still do when someone asks me a straighforward question in French, and told him that my French was very bad. He pointed to his wrist, I showed him my watch, I went on my way.

As I walked away, he yelled out, "Anglais?"

"Non, américaine."

Him: "OOOH! CHICAGO?!!!"


But yeah, I am told I speak American, and not English. And while there are some differences - British English is definately taught in school here - I still have to explain that Americans say that they speak English. It's kind of surreal, isn't it?

# posted by ViVi : 10:22 AM  

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