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Friday, April 20, 2012

4-18-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians – Starter Job #106 (Bank Holiday weekend in Paris - part 3)


Regardez-moi le blog, et quelque chose?  Pardonnez-moi, le plume de ma tante?  My memories of French class in college flooded back to me in dire recherchez du temps perdu. . . .

My professors in college French levels I and II made it obvious to me they despised my efforts at speaking it -- though I could read and write Francais just fine.  What can I say? I had three strikes against me:

1.    I took three years of Spanish previously and kind of coasted through it -- I was good at learning and speaking Spanish.  Spanish speakers always smiled and kept conversing if you tried using their language.  The pronunciation in Spanish is a lot different from the French, and I’d get confused.
2.    I grew up in Queens, NY, with a mother whose grasp of pronunciation was often creative, so it left me confused.
3.    I’m an autodidact -- self taught -- and when you read words you can’t appreciate how they sound.

Nowadays I think of humorist David Sedaris’s essay on his attempts to speak French in Paris, “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” because I know that it’s nearly futile to make the French happy when you attempt to speak their pretty words and make sense in the exactly correct pronunciation.  Batardes!!

But at the time, my first trip to France, I was intoxicated with the language and so glad to open my mouth and have those mellifluous sounds pour out -- or so I thought.

At the Champs D’Elyssees -- I did a solo walking tour of the sights -- I inquired of the guard, “Ou est la toilette?”  It came out like “Oooh aye la twa-lette?”

And he kind of jeered back at me, saying, “Ou est-elle la toilette?  Oui, il est la bas.”
In an accent so French I almost didn’t comprends pas.

Oh well.  The surly returns to my friendly efforts at conversation in the mother tongue convinced me to seek out other English speakers in Paris.  My constant hunger and penury (very low to no budget -- I don’t recommend going to Paris in those circumstances) forced me to a streetside café on le Rive Gauche (the Left Bank to all you non-francophones LOL).  I ordered something very cheap and sat quietly, listening for voices that brutalized the French tongue and/or spoke English.

Soon enough, I did meet somebody -- a young man from England on holiday, by himself, at the café.  After he ordered from the (snippy Parisien) waiter, I said,

“Pardon me, but I am alone and so wanting to meet other English speakers,” I must have said something like that, because what else do you do?  Oh, right, add some charm & warmth.  I must’ve, because after a few minutes, I was invited to dinner. . .

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