Before I came, I would have predicted that my French should be fairly good after two weeks.
Last time I arrived in France for an extended stay, I started understanding the conversations around me after about two weeks. No longer could the French family talk about me while I sat ignorant. And what was it they said, "She must really enjoy French food!"
"No, she arrived that way." Indicating that my weight was more American than French.
Anyway, now, nearly five weeks in, my comprehension of French is not where it should be.
I blame country living. Earl and I can spend the entire day in only each other's company rather than stumbling our way through French conversations.
Of course, we eat out on many days and must make our way through the minefield of French menus and waiters, but we can usually clutch onto something that we recognize and move on from there. And when we don't recognize it, I try to figure it out with the waiter's help.
The other day, I asked a waitress, "C'est quoi 'pintade'?" The menu du jour said "cuisse de pintade" in a celery sauce.
I knew cuisse meant thigh, because I order cuisse de canard (duck thigh) eagerly. But I'd never heard of "pintade" and of course the word was not in my pocket dictionary.
Like chicken, the waitress explained.
So we ordered it, and it was fine. When I looked it up online, the dictionary actually said guinea fowl rather than chicken, but let's be honest, it tastes like chicken.
And another day, the menu said spaghetti de spianata, which it turns out is actually Italian, and means sausage, like chorizo, but the waiter assured me it wasn't too spicy.
It was with some trepidation that we walked into a tech shop to see if they could fix Earl's computer. It's a laptop that turns into a tablet when it's opened backward. The keyboard stopped working the other day. Truthfully, I figured any tech people would speak English, but this guy did not, so I ended up speaking French and using some gestures. He guessed that it was a connection that could be easily fixed. We left the computer after he recommended a restaurant for the afternoon, and I left feeling fairly good about my French.
Next we stopped at French clothing shop for a new chapeau for Earl. He had a knit cap that he wore on outings with the dogs, but we were attracted by the spiffy men's hats with brims, a 1940s throwback. Earl tried on several hats, once we found the extra large sizes. We liked the brown hat with the broad brim, but maybe it looked too much like a cowboy hat. When he tried them on, he tended to pull them down too far, as if they might fly off his head.
When the saleslady finished helping another couple, she joined us to discuss the merits of each hat. "Il a une très grosse tête," I explained and the woman nodded as she checked the size to make sure it was big enough.
He tried on a smaller hat and the woman tactfully explained that since he was a big guy, he needed a more substantial hat so it didn't look ridiculously small on his head.
Again, I left feeling confident in my language skills. The day continued with French interactions, until we returned to the tech shop. The other technician spoke in a quick French that left me confused. "We needed to reset the computer or they had already reset it?" I asked. We needed to do it, or take it to someone in the U.S.
"We won't be back in the U.S. for a year," I told the technician who looked worried.
So, my French is better, but nowhere near fluent.
At the barber shop for Earl's first haircut, I explained that his hair should be short on the sides and longer on top. "Mais pas trop?" the barber asked. "Oui," I agreed, not too much.
|The finished product|
Coming up, we have two weeks in the middle of a village where my French will hopefully improve, before we take a three-week break to housesit in England. I hope my language skills don't slip backward as I try to decipher British English.