Tuesday 8 March 2016
Torrential rain - 8 degrees
OH's abiding memory of French lessons at school is that of leaping through the window to go and play football. Mine are of being thrilled at the idea of learning a new and strange language. One with which I felt an immediate affinity and whose liquid sounds I chanted on the walk home from school.
I left school and started work but was always drawn to the languages section of the Public Lending Libraries where I was always at the maximum of books which I could take out. Often there would be a slim manual on French, or Italian, or Spanish. I did have a brief dip into German and did not take to its guttural sounds, bizarre grammar with separable verbs and why on earth do you use one form of 'the' when you are putting a book on the table and another one when you are taking the book off the table? Life was too short for five forms of 'the'. Irregular verbs I can cope with. I was horrified to discover that Polish has irregular nouns - how the ??? does that work. And thanks to some bonkers clients, I made a brief foray into Estonian. My advice is not to go anywhere near Estonian - it has 13 cases.... probably why so many Estonians think Russian is a piece of cake and they all speak English. I have just had a brief dip into the Internet and come up with the following interesting article - as well as discovering that Hungarian has 26 cases....
We are now into our thirteenth year in France. The French language which was always running in the background of my mind has flowered and developed into fluency in most areas of life. I am still reduced to pointing and saying 'it doesn't work - that bit there' when faced with a garage technician. Or 'its that bit which makes the noise'. The kids picked up fluency within a year. OH has still to pick up on what is a verb, what is a noun, what is an adjective. He has had twice weekly lessons over a period of two years. It is like pouring sand into a hole. Some of it didnt even stick for the rest of the day.
As a result, he has a rag bag of half learned words and no idea how to put them together. His rare forays into French show that he has no concept of how to construct a sentence. He speaks the language as if he has never heard it. Words which he has learned are learned slightly wrong but once a word is learned, that is the form which stays in his memory and keeps on popping out, like the proverbial bad penny. RJ (eldest) once brought a French girl home and OH shook her hand and said 'bizarre'. Its Bonjour, hissed WF (youngest) at stage left. He still says 'sivil play' and after two years, I refused to pay for any more lessons.
During our twelve years in France, OH has developed a passion for Spain and we have been far more places there than we have in our supposedly home country. Bored with 'learning' French, he has now decided to learn Spanish and has been spending time every evening with Duolingo, whose calm voice never tells him he is a bloody idiot and slaps her forehead. We were drinking tea in bed yesterday and he said I should test him because he was now half way through the course. Pas de problème para mi he said, smiling over the top of the mug.
I looked around the room - what is the word for mirror.
OH screwed up his face. Ooooh I know that one. I could hear his brain creaking.
Think of the word spy I suggested. More silence.
El espejo? I suggested. That's it, replied OH, I told you I knew it.
How about bed? Dormitorio! That's bedroom.
How about window? Vento. I had to look that one up - it meant dough.
How would you say I am cold?
That's I am a fridge. How would you say it in French?
That's I have a fridge
Its frio. Frio and caliente
That is I am frigid
You are back in fridge mode
(if you don't know Spanish, there are two forms of to be; 'Ser' which is something you always are like an English woman. Estar is something you are temporarily; like sad. So you can say soy caliente which means I am hot stuff or estoy caliente which means you are feeling the heat)
I couldnt be a teacher. I haven't the patience. Hats off to Beatrice who has a whole group of people like my husband and is likely to have them until they shuffle off this mortal coil....