Language Update

Wednesday, May 21st, 2003 | Travel

Well, it’s been about 6 weeks or so since I started my intensive French language study.

I am quite confident in my ability to ask whether or not the car has enough gas, how far it is to Marseilles, whether or not we shall play tennis tomorrow, what the doctor’s phone number is, and how many children you have. Unfortunately, it is my suspicion that nothing I have learned is going to be of any use whatsoever, unless a tennis player and his wife and three children, one of whom went to school in Lyon, invite me to drive with them to visit their doctor in Marseilles. When I spent a month there in 1999, I frequently lapsed into Italian with a French accent, and hoped for the best. At least I can say that I’ll have another glass of red wine, please, and ask where the toilets are. But they have to tell me either, it’s over there, straight ahead, to the left or to the right. I am so intrigued by the numbering. After a very logical pattern of suffixes, they gave up after sixty. Seventy is “sixty ten.” Eighty is “four twenties.” The French call ninety nine “four-twenties-ten-nine.” Why didn’t they just stop at ten? Eleven could be “ten one,” twelve “ten two,” twenty one “two ten one,” and so on. Why do I get so nervous about this? The one time I was relaxed about the language barrier in a foreign country was in Greece, where I could only say hello, goodbye, good evening, the check please, and thank you. Is it the top in me, or the bottom that’s the problem? I still have a week before partir-ing, and for the euro to start declining, and to relax with my limited bizarre vocabulary.

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