Tuesday, February 15, 2005

My Private Class

Today was another cold, light snow/light hail, blustery kind of day. A little sun would go a long way for me.

At my afternoon French class, a small class to start with, no one else showed up today. I had the teacher all to myself. She told me I'm getting improving my pronunciation and my comprehension is ever better. My pronunciation? She's just being kind. However, I must agree, I do understand a lot more now when I'm spoken to. It really helps make me feel more comfortable in my life here. My newest "thing" is to look straight at those folks carrying maps or just looking lost ... with my go ahead, ask melook. Today, someone almost had me stumped because the street they were looking for is closer to the next metro stop, they clearly got off too early, but I gave them directions anyway. It's just one of my strange little tests that helps me practice my French and hear how French people pronounce some of the street names.

So today I could ask my French teacher all sorts of questions that have been bothering me. In the end, we focused on three subjects over the 90 minutes:

1. Review of a New Year's Wishes cartoon, Le Regard de Cabu that I found in the Paris Mairie/Town Hall Magazine. That cartoon link gives an example of Cabu's work on page 5. This is all I could find in English about Cabu, a very popular French comic creator. I really enjoyed going through each cartoon box as the teacher explained the social or political intent behind the pictures and words. Very interesting. Made me feel a little closer to understanding what some of the major issues are in France.

2. The Present Subjunctive. What?? It was her choice. Basically, I learned about its use... when?.. after a verb that expresses some kind of insistence and after a verb that expresses doubt or fear or some other emotion. For example: Je doute qu'il vienne/I doubt that he is coming/. Honestly, I don't think I'll need it much in my normal conversation, but my teacher swears it will be very useful for me.

3. I am forever perplexed by the certain grammatical uses of "en." I've had many other basic things to worry about, like speaking in the past, e.g., I went out last night... glad to be able to say that now, but the "en" thing was a mystery to me. I think I understand it a bit better now. Hope she goes over it again when the whole class is there. Sometimes I really need to hear things twice or thrice.. At least she thinks I'm improving.

Here is a picture I took yesterday as I was getting on the metro at Edgar Quinet in Montparnasse. Sometimes I think there is art and beauty everywhere you look (except down, bien sur) in Paris.

-- said Auntie M in Paris
10:48 PM



We are studying y and en in y French class, too. It's tricky: I can work with them fine on paper but I have the feeling that in spoken French it will be much more difficult. It's hard to wrap my head around the entire sentence before even saying one word. I will think of you as we review subjunctive tomorrow!

# posted by Janna : 12:07 AM  

The present subjenctive IS very useful -- and necessary.

What exactly is the question about en?
"Il m'en faut deux." I need two OF THEM. "Deuxieme accident en deux jours." Two accidents IN two days.
Ask away!

# posted by RighteousBiche : 4:50 AM  

I suggest finding out as much of an explanation for such grammatical oddness as possible. I'm studying up this week for my test next week, and while a lot of the grammar part I know the right answer from hearing it used in daily life, a lot of the times I don't really know why it's correct, and couldn't explain it for the life of me, much to my dismay.

Alas, I guess that's one of the downfalls of the learning purely by every day living rather than with a teacher.

# posted by kim : 7:59 AM  

Hi Auntie –

Yes, the "en" is épineux, but pretty straightforward (smile)

This simple example (RB above is spot on, of course) is illustrative of the problem.

USA: Do you have children ?
FR: Avez-vous des enfants ?

USA: Sure, I have four.
WRONG FR FROM US LEARNER: Bien sûr, j'ai quatre.
FR: Bien sûr, j'en ai quatre.

See ? The "en", as RB points out, is "of them".

It could also be "of whatever you're referring to" or "whatever you're talking about" or even "some" or "any". Viz:

USA (holding out a bowl of potato chips): Want some ? (the "of this" is "understood")
FR (qui tend un bol de chips): Vous en voulez ? (or "En voulez-vous?") (the "en" is not "understood": it's required and is, basically, equivalent to – acting as - the "some" …)

USA: Does he need some money ?
FR: A t-il besoin d'argent ?

USA: No, he doesn't. ("need any" is understood)
FR: Non, il n'en a pas besoin. (the "en" is required).

I fully agree with RB about the present subjunctive. It is very, very useful !

Don't worry too much about all this, though: it comes with practice. It's like that old computer proverb: "Never ask why, always ask how." The French have as much trouble with "make" and "do" and "say" and "tell" as we do with "en" and "y". Nous n'y pouvons rien !


# posted by L'Amerloque : 1:18 PM  

L'Amerloque, I have a (smile) for you -- t'en veux?

Seriously, my husband and I spent our first three months getting acquainted by email. He also used the (smile) instead of the :-).

Time to go clean up the toys. J'en peux plus!

# posted by RighteousBiche : 1:49 PM  

I should have written, "Il faut que j'aille!"

I have too much fun here!

# posted by RighteousBiche : 1:53 PM  

J, Thank you. When my teacher explains it's use, it makes sense, but when I'm alone...
RB, Hmm... it is useful? That's too bad.
Kim, I'm trying to read more (kids books). Hopefully that will help. You know what's the worst? My 4 year old uses 'en' all the time.
L'A, Thanks for the examples. I might read them over a couple of times. Hopefully it will help.
RB, "J'en peux plus!" I can more of them? That doesn't make sense to me.... I'm really not an idiot, but this French stuff doesn't come easy. "Il faut que j'aille!" It's necessary that I go? Hope I'm close on that one?

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 4:52 PM  

Hi Auntie –

RB said, colloquially, "je n'en peux plus", which comes out to "I can't bear it any longer." The negative is usually dropped when using the locution in exasperation. The "en" is "it".

You're right about "Il faut que j'aille!" It is, as you said, "It's necessary that I go" which is short for "It's necessary that I (should) go," the (should) having dropped out of our spoken language years and years ago. In the USA we'd simply say "I gotta run". "Il faut que j'y aille!" would come out to be "I gotta go there."

All this reminds me of when I was learning French. I deperately looked for the dictionary entries for "shaypa" and "shavaypa", which I kept hearing around me. Someone kindly pointed out that "je ne sais pas" and "je ne savais pas" were what I was hearing. (smile)


# posted by L'Amerloque : 6:42 PM  

Oh M. - I am so with you on all this "en" and subjective stuff!!! LOL And L'A - I want to hire you as my French teacher!! :-)

# posted by Pat : 11:51 PM  

I rarely say ne. I'm bad. What I love is the French you see on chats. Oy vey!

Auntie M, you're translation, "It is necessary" instead of "I gotta" reminds me of a piece I read somewhere. This guy was merely visiting Paris and thought he was pretty smart. He hotly criticized the translation of the "Saving Private Ryan." He was like, "What's this? You should all see how they translate movie titles in France! What a crappy translation! It Is Necessary to Save the Soldier Ryan?"

It's tough for beginners to stop translating word-for-word. I know.

In their heads, the French see that title more like, "We Gotta Save Private Ryan!"

Anyway, I'm just taking a break before I run to the fourth store to try to find a guinea pig cage for Tootie.

# posted by RighteousBiche : 9:35 AM  

"Je n'en peux plus!" I can't take anymore (of it)! Just to make it tie in with the whole OF THEM theme.

# posted by RighteousBiche : 9:37 AM  

Oy! They need to an edit feature to comments! Sorry!

They had translated Saving Private Ryan into Il faut sauver le soldat Ryan.

I'm much too stressed today! Stupid guinea pig!

# posted by RighteousBiche : 9:40 AM  

RB -

The "Truffaut" chain stores have guinea pig cages, as well as a whole lot of stuff for other pets. Prices vary from store to store.


# posted by L'Amerloque : 1:37 PM  

I'm really starting to treat this blog like a discussion board!

L'Amerloque, I'll be sure to catch tonight's 10-hour flight to Paris just so I can find a cage! (smile) I almost would at this point! I live in Kyrgyzstan. Obviously, you haven't visited my blog! (sniff!)

# posted by RighteousBiche : 4:22 PM  

Hi RB -

>>I live in Kyrgyzstan.

Ah. Didn't know that. (sheepish grin)

>>Obviously, you haven't visited
>>my blog! (sniff!)

I have now remedied that. (smile) (Eh, oui, j'en veux, les sourires, by the way ...).

Your blog (at least the part I have read) strikes a familiar chord ... although not 'dash-happy', I use a lot of dashes in my writing in English. Funnily enough, "the French" are forever pointing out to me that two dashes are needed in Franch - one to open and one to close. (sigh) Shades of "Eats, Shoots and Leaves", eh ?

>>I'm really starting to treat
>>this blog like a discussion



# posted by L'Amerloque : 8:36 PM  

Post a Comment