Thursday, April 21, 2005

Je Parle Francais?!

On the way to school today a little boy, around 10 years old and by himself, stepped in some dog stuff on the side walk. For the next couple of minutes he'd try to scrape his sneakers against the street to get rid of the stuff. He's walking about the same speed as my son and daughter, so he hears us having a conversation in English. Finally, I saw a little water puddle off the curb and I say to him "il y a de l'eau pour tes chaussures." He looks up at me startled and says in a very articulated and slow way "I speak French." In French, I said, "I know, there is water for your shoes there." He went over to the water. Just yesterday my French teacher was again complimenting my progress with the language. Guess this little boy didn't think my French was too good.

Then I went to an art show. I'm speaking French to a German woman and a French woman comes up and asks why I don't join her French conversation class to improve my French. My confidence is really heading down at this point. I want to stop speaking French, but plough on. If you can believe it, another French woman joins the conversation and says my French is pretty good, but if I take her class my French would really improve. Is this a joke? Then the first lady says "are you trying to take my clients away from me?" I excuse myself from the group. I can only take so much!

-- said Auntie M in Paris
6:44 PM



Sorry everyone... I seem to have erased the post and all comments. Hope you don't mind if I post at least some of the comments from my email.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 9:11 PM  

with the women - i think they were just being bitches. ignore them.

with the little boy - i think your accent probably just threw him so he didn't really listen to what you were saying and assumed it was in a different language.

plus the kid factor - i mean i can never understand what little kids are saying, even in my own language!!

-your sister lou's friend carolyn

# posted by Anonymous : 9:11 PM  

This post has been removed by the author.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 9:12 PM  

Don't worry auntie as long as you can make yourself understood you can participate in discussion and gradually improve. Meanwhile trade off language lessons with a person eager to improve their English.

I agree with what others have said. French children are the worst critics of accents and mistakes. Believe me I know! I taught groups of collége students my second year here. I had such little grasp of French and they had quite fun torturing me about it! It did make me thick-skinned about comments.

Ignore them all and enjoy speaking at your own pace. My retired father in law WHO ....SPEAKS....LIKE....THIS....to me still, and has always constantly corrected me (at an annoyingly unhelpful rate), decided to learn english last year. He lasted two lessons and quit! He hasn't spoken of it since (tee hee) Those women would probably suffer too learning perfect English in the midst of a cultural whirlwind, and so would half the people correcting you. Ignore them and perservere is what I say! Speaking better is the best revenge!! Chrisc

# posted by Anonymous : 9:12 PM  

I myself have been learning French for only four months now; it's a beautiful language, but it's a complicated one. I find I have a much easier time writing than speaking in it. On the other hand, I don't have this problem with German. However, I had more people to speak German with.

Don't pay any attention, as others have already said, to those women. I've been fortunate to become friends with a guy from Lille who is so encouraging on my French. Maybe it's a Parisian thing. I've noticed people outside of Paris tend to not think as highly of Paris and the Parisians as the Parisians seem to. ;-)

I just found it so funny how the boy was so articulate. It's like the stereotype people have of an American speaking another language, where they think we all speak very sloooow and very LOUD.

I love languages. French is the most challenging of any that I'm studying, but I keep at it (plus it's my second major...) You'll definitely keep improving. Look at it this way, each day you learn something new or improve your speaking skills, even in the slightest way, you're all the better off.

I couldn't agree more with what sammy said above: anyone with the attitude displayed by those two women is highly unlikely to have ever endeavored to learn a second language themselves, or if they have, they've never had the courage to use it in the native environment. No matter what language you're learning, anyone who's learning a second (or third, or fourth...) can identify with you!

Bonne chance! Joe

# posted by Anonymous : 9:13 PM  

Hang in there M. My French is wayyyyyy farrrrrr from good but I still forge on!! I think you just ran into the wrong people today. Normally, I excuse myself saying that I do not speak French very well. I then get "showered" with praises for my not-so-good French. Always a little boost! :-)

# posted by Anonymous : 9:14 PM  

Grrr...I hate it when a French person responds, in heavily accented English, "I do not speak English." Who asked them to? And one of my low points was when an out-of-control five-year-old French girl, who I told (in French of course) to climb down from a table she was standing on, answered, "I don't speak English." She continued to insist she couldn't understand me, although she responded accurately to each thing I said to her. (Me: "I'm speaking French, and you understand me very well." Her: "No, I don't.") Sorry for the rant, but you hit on one of my pet peeves. Lisa

# posted by Anonymous : 9:14 PM  

Hi Auntie !

Don't worry about it. Don't be put off by what French kids think of your French. Don't be depressed about "ladies" coming up to you at receptions and urging you to join their conversation group(s).

Think of it like this: how long did it take you to learn your native language, American English, fluently ?
Why should you expect to learn French in less time than that ? (smile)

Keep speaking French. Keep working on it. You're on the right track. Fluency will come.


# posted by Anonymous : 9:15 PM  

Ha, I think it was a ruse (for them to insinuate you can stand for some improvement) by the two women to get you in their classes. I'm w. Sammy - don't give up. Anyway what better way to learn than the way you are? Terry in SF

# posted by Anonymous : 9:15 PM  

Here's 'mon avis' :

The snarly ladies are not to be trusted. I rate them among the type of Frenchie that will criticize near-perfect French spoken by a foreigner merely based upon the existence of an accent. Do NOT let them teach you. They will suck you dry of all confidence.

My observation with this sort of person is that they :
1. rarely (if ever) speak a second language themsevles,
2. rarely (if ever) have put themselves in a position (i.e. travelling to far reached lands) that would make this necessary.

The little boy? Probably just being truthful. French children DO often have difficulty with accents at first.

Don't give up Aunite! How many other people have the 'courage' (in French) to try something like learning a new language in adulthood? Sammy

# posted by Anonymous : 9:15 PM  

oh i just hate it when French people do that! they point out others' pronunciation and they cannot even order a hamburger in English! it just drives me crazy! ignore all of them. i could never learn a new language and would be terrified to live in a foreign country. you're doing great. and if you need private lessons, don't pay those evil ladies to teach you French, meet me and i'll give you free lessons!!!

# posted by irene : 10:04 PM  

I'm still struggling after 20 years! Some days are better than others, I love to see people's faces when my children switch from one language to the other

# posted by Anji : 2:20 PM  

This happens quite often: I'm french living abroad, and as people do not expect you to speak their language (even more when they just heard you speaking another one), they sometines don't get it.

We should start all our sentences by: "I'm speaking your local language..."

A bientot...

# posted by Frank : 9:49 PM  

Moi aussi je parle français :D

# posted by Ethaniel : 3:31 PM  

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