Ooh la la! I travelled into the world of French dialogue this week! And it was very scary. Oui, I mean non. It was humiliating. Oui, that is the correct word. Humbling.
Imagine this. In our Yakima Valley, we have many languages, from Spanish (predominant) to different Native American dialects to Philippino to Japanese, and increasing Russian sounding and Asian. But not often is there French. I don’t believe any of our high schools even teach it anymore. But the biggest language we see is Spanish.
A few days ago, I was headed into Top Foods, the grocery store we frequent (especially since our daughter works at the connected Starbucks, which is one of the 2 in WA state to be closed – not a good move, but that is another story and I’ve already been in contact with headquarters). I walked past two women. My ears perked up as it sounded like they were speaking French. Cool. I thought, oh, I should stop and say bonjour. Mais, non, I continued out the exit. Non, I thought, this is unique for us. So I waited for the doors to open (I was on the wrong side), and went back in. Alas, they were gone.
I figured I had missed the opportunity, so I walked to the car and put my groceries away. Glancing back, I saw the same 2 ladies sitting down in front of Starbucks in the outside cafe chairs. Try number 2. Hmmm, another free observation. Moi, I seem to need at least 2 chances to get things together. Maybe that’s why it’s taking Kevin and I about 6 years to pursue this call to France.
Girding myself with at least a cheery “Bonjour” I timidly waltzed across the parking lot and went up to them. Yes, you can timidly waltz. As I approached, they immediately got up and started announcing they were just waiting…(In France, at least Paris, one must buy food or drink at a cafe before acquiring the right to sit in a chair and use a table – they thought I was going to run them off). No, no, I said. You are fine! Then I commenced with my one word of Bonjour, Allo(2 ways to say hi). They were so friendly and glad that I had stopped to massacre the French language with them – I mean they were very gracious and spoke with me. Their English was wonderful. My French, all 3-4 words, were atrocious.
Fast forward, the two amis were a part of a 10-person tour led by a French professor who had taught one year in Montana and was now leading this group for 24 days throughout our beautiful northwest. Voila! The rest of the group came out of Top Foods, and I helped them gather enough chairs and tables to sit together. I’m sure the newcomers were wondering about me. But I soon enough enhanced their ears with my preschool sentences of wrong tense French. I know this because they very nicely were happy to help me correct what I was saying. Humbling. Yes, humbling.
Let me tell you how friendly and polite they were. If I could have dug up some more rudimentary French, I’m sure I could’ve stayed. But my nerves frazzled out. Sigh. I did manage to share that Kevin and I are moving to Paris next April, to which they all responded excitedly, and wanted to know details and whys and where would we live and study (I told them, in French, that I had already studied French there…which they corrected for me, as obviously, I hadn’t studied yet!). They were from southern France, Toulouse, but who knows? We may meet somewhere in France!
My newest observation and fact about Angie – I have a basic working understanding of some French, more in writing than hearing or speaking. But confront me with a French speaking person, and voila, it’s all a big fat ZERO of blathering idiot (say that in French ee-dee-ote). Tant pis, too bad. The great news? I was excited to talk with these new friends. God filled me with love and a desire to get to know them and spend time with them.
Merci beaucoup, mon Dieu, for the opportunity and the encouragement to visit, however humiliating, with the people of my heart.
PS A funny sidenote – I was sharing (dans english) that after culture shock and a few months of French school, I would be able to speak much better when if I met them. The professor said that I must drink MUCH WINE. Does much wine make the culture shock go away? Or just make one not care how bad her French is? I didn’t tell them I wouldn’t be sampling their fruit of the wine, I mean vine, at least not until the great heavenly feast. 🙂