Friday, April 20, 2007

Je plonge dans la piscine

Trying to move beyond baby steps (étapes de bébé) in speaking French, last night I attended a conversation group at the Ritz-Carlton bar called Jer-Ne. (Is it intentional that the name sounds like journée, French for a day's wages?) But I still felt like a little boy, if not a bébé, as I thought of my childhood visits to my grand-pères in Maine, when I couldn't decipher anything other than oui, non, and chocolat. This feeling only got stronger when I was talking to a very friendly and patient older man in the group and I blurted out, "J'aime lire des bandes desinées," or "I like to read comic books!" (Well, I do. Especially Charlie Brown and Lucy psychiatre.) I probably didn't seem any more mature when I excitedly talked about right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen, a candidate in this weekend's election for president of France. I'm no fascist; it was just that his name was the easiest to remember and pronounce (at least, more so than Nicolas Sarkozy). Midway through the meeting, our organizer announced in French that the next meeting would be in a private room of another restaurant, so that there'd be less noise to compete with. As I said good-bye, I told the organizer that I very much liked the idea of une petite salle sans bruit (small room without noise), and she responded, slowly and carefully, that I was in luck because the next meeting would be in just such a place -- apparently assuming, with good reason, that I hadn't understood a word of her previous announcement. I thought about saying, "But I understood you the first time!", but I couldn't come up with the words.

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