I have started having French lessons with a friend at an adult education college and have just finished the first term. My children think it is hilarious that I can only now count to 100 and order some baguettes et deux cognacs at a restaurant. The plan is that post Brexit I am going to move to Bormes-les-Mimosas and sit around drinking cognac et verre de vin blanc et Kir Royale’s because I think that will make me tres heureuse. I literally love the textbook we are working from, because all the practice sections seem to be about ordering copious amounts of alcohol in restaurants. One of the character’s, when he can’t sleep, counts his c’est énorme quantité de bouteilles de vin. It’s hilarious. He’s in his wine cellar and we are learning numbers.
It’s so strange being back in a classroom full of people. I have reverted to my ten year old self, whereby when I am asked a direct question and expected to respond OUT LOUD in front of everyone, I literally freeze. My mind goes blank and I get total stage fright. Then I answer the question completely wrongly and get the exact same feeling that I had when I read out the wrong word in front of everyone as a child at school. That sense of total embarrassment and mortification. It never seems to go away. The teacher asked me to add “ne” and “pas” to a very simple sentence about a car. When I sandwiched the wrong bit, she kept shouting “WHERE IS THE VERB” and all I could think was I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT A VERB IS. I literally reverted to being a tiny child about to cry and the more she shouted at me, the more I got it wrong. I KNOW THE BLOODY VOITURE ISN’T THE VERB, but that, sadly, is what I said in a panic and now everyone thinks I’m an idiot.
HOWEVER, the best bit about the class is that I am not the worst at learning French, which is astonishing. I do feel quite sorry for our teacher – she despairs – she actually threatened to jump out of the window yesterday when none of us got our homework right. The group age variation is from vingt-cinq to soixante neuf (ha ha, can never take that number seriously) which means that I even got a B+ in my recent test. BEEEE PLUSSSSS – I’ve never had a B+ before. This is because it’s all relative. I have joined the most basic of classes, when really, even though I was being taught O’ Level French in Hong Kong by a woman with a very strong Pakistani accent to pronounce French vocabulary, I did learn the numbers and the verbs “Etre” and “Avoir” and so a few things are coming back to me as we progress. I will still always panic about grammar, but I do that with English grammar, so that will never change. I don’t understand why I don’t know what a pronoun is or a past participle – or is it passed participle? How did I not learn that years ago? Are they still teaching our kids grammar at school? I hope not. It’s not required as a life skill (I appreciate there are those who are going to disagree with that statement!).
Anyway, I must aller immédiatement parce que j’ai am off to the boulangerie as je voudrais un sandwich avec jambon et fromage and then I’m going to find a little French cafe where I will order deux verre de vin blanc, cinq cognac, trois kir, sept Kir Royale, un grand cafe, trois citron presse, une panache et un croque monsieur and all just because I can!!
See you there, as je n’ai bois et mange pas it all by myself!