Parlez-vous Français?

When I left the room my whole face was aching. It must have been one of the toughest 60 minutes since my arrival in France. I knew now what contortionists go through to get their bodies into whatever shape and size is required. But I was not pursuing a new hobby, I was just trying to learn some French. And that evening we had attacked all those weird and wonderful sounds the French make in pronouncing their words but which don't exist in English.

You see life at the pub was going pretty well. Custom was thriving, people even came from Besançon, some 30 kilometres east of here, because they'd heard this was a real Irish pub with genuine music, not just one that sold Guinness and added the epithet "Irish" to make it look good. I was still living in the spare but had already made arrangements to move into a flat when the current occupiers left in a few weeks time. I enjoyed my work and the people I met at the pub. My only real problem was communication. Most of the regulars knew enough English to make me cringe, and they tried it out regularly. Hearty laughs were usually the result but it did make me feel kind of lonely, and sometimes even worse than useless. Jean and Annie were great; you couldn't imagine a better boss. But I couldn't hang onto their apron strings all the time. I had to learn to fly on my own. I had to learn French.

So when I learnt that one of our regular customers actually taught French at the local "espace loisirs" - what you might call a community centre - I decided to broach the subject. To be perfectly honest, I'd been looking for an opportunity to broach any subject with her ever since she first came into the pub, despite the fierce looking man who sometimes accompanied her. So the next time she came in, I stuck a feather in my cap, skipped my way across the room and asked:

"Avez-vous une mine pour moi?"

She looked at me with stunned silence and then a burst of laughter filled the room.

"Are you Welsh or Irish?" came the reply. And with that she tucked my arm into hers and marched me out of the pub.

We walked out onto the village green.

"I was trying to ask you for a little smile. I was just being flirtatious."

"Well, actually you asked me if I had a mine for you?"

"Good gracious! No wonder, you thought I must be Welsh."

"Especially after the colour you turned when everyone burst out laughing. And you're doing it again. It suits you."

And with that she reached up and gave me a little peck on the cheek.

I explained what I wanted - I mean the language lessons, of course. The rest she would have to guess for herself, but I'm afraid any hopes I had on that score were misplaced. So that was how, the following Monday I took my place at one of the tables in the espace loisirs and started French lessons. To tell you the truth, I was actually enjoying them. If only school had been like this. I'd have loved to have had Thérèse as my teacher, but she didn't teach the beginners' class. She did drop by now and again to check on my progress and I saw her quite often with her boyfriend back at the pub. He became less fierce every day and they soon became good friends.

Meanwhile, back at the pub my French antics were rapidly becoming the subject of much light-hearted banter. My teacher gave me one practice phrase per week. I had to go and repeat it to at least 5 people per day. And then, ask them the same question. Of course, the pub was the perfect place and progress was rapid, as I went around from customer to customer with my little dialogue:

"Je m'appelle Simon. J'ai 19 ans. Et vous?"

But for the prettier young ladies I reserved a special speech:

"Je m'appelle Simon. Je suis Irlandais. Je suis beau, n'est-ce pas?"


Guess we find out if it worked :)

Enjoyable story

3 October 2007 at 20:22  

Love the ending. Can't wait for the next episode, either.

3 October 2007 at 20:42  

L'intrigue est amusant!

3 October 2007 at 23:56  

Self-assured, isn't he? But very likable - I'll be looking forward to hearing more of his story!

3 October 2007 at 23:59  

this was a real Irish pub with genuine music, not just one that sold Guinness and added the epithet "Irish" to make it look good.


Sooooooo true!

4 October 2007 at 00:59  

It is too good though I didn't understand those french phrases.

4 October 2007 at 06:14  

this is a facet of life i encounter every day at work... i know the words in spanish not french mind you... but saying them out loud is a whole different story!!!!!!

4 October 2007 at 14:39  


I am waiting...

4 October 2007 at 19:18  

Another quick and interesting read, Paul. Coincidentally, I was just watching an I Love Lucy rerun today with she and Ethel taking French lessons :)

5 October 2007 at 07:33  

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