It’s my first morning in France for a few years. Yesterday, my arrival played as a comedy of errors, and unfortunately some errors of little comedy, but today will be easier. I know it sounds tritely droll, but a little baguette and beurre, speckled with salt of the Camargue and partnered with a bowl of cafe au lait have already made my day brighter. Everything tastes better in France.
When I booked this house, this dreamy, ridiculously quaint house, I thought I would practice my French, and correspond in the native tongue of the landlord. My first response was brief, a little puerile, perhaps, but entirely from my own brain’s storage files. He was grateful, and I needed the study. Unfortunately, he stepped up the vocab, and the next communication required a quick visit to google translate. As the exchanges continued, the language became more intense, and finally, I would simply cut and paste the entire script into the translator, then write my return en Anglais, and simply reverse the process.
This was stupid.
First, I did not get the practice that I needed, and secondly, Marc believed that I was far more conversant than I actually am. I should have confessed my lack of prowess in the language, but refuse to let him revert to English. I should have brought him down to my level. “Je ne parle pas Francais bien. ” I don’t speak French well. I should have retrieved my favourite French phrases – “Lentement, S’il vous plait” – slowly, if you please, and, once I’d worn that one down to one syllable per second, finally, “Desole, je suis bête.” – sorry, I am stupid. Which, if nothing else, is enough to make your struggling conservationalist laugh.
When we arrived at the house last night, Dominique was there to greet us. Marc, of course had told her that I speak French. “Parlez Anglais?” I asked. She laughed, “A ha, non. Je ne parle pas Anglais beaucoup“. Oops… I had to confess my deception. Although as soon as she heard my broad Australian vowels attacking her viscous words, I’m sure she knew. My favourite two phrases, and my vocab of about 400 words saved me. Within minutes she had forgiven my terrible lie, and was even trying out her own English.