Suz – a self-described Francophile writes about her lifelong desire to speak French. Suz lives in the states with (who she calls) her half French husband. Their running joke is – her next husband with be full French.
“Jack, do you want to play Go Fish?” I yelled from across the room. “Yes, yes, yes” my 6 year old Grandson responded. “Ok cool”. I said…”but let’s play in French”. “Ugh GG”, he whined, “I don’t want to talk in French anymore!!!” “O.K. cool – mais, voulez-vous de l’eau minérale?” I giggled.
What do you do when you are obsessed with something? Oh and I mean you, not the rest of the people in your life, just you. Well for me, a life time of dreaming about France spills over into my everyday life in little ways. Simple things like counting in French with my Grandchildren help keep me connected to my dream. However, I hear from the peanut gallery that it can be quite annoying.
In order to explain my obsession you should know that for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to live in France and speak French. I have absolutely no idea why. I’ll just say that from about the age of 12, I knew I’d marry a French man. Well, as life would play out, I married a man who is half French. I didn’t get the whole French man package – but I did get the WHOLE French Mother-in-law package.
Long story short, my fantastique French Mother-in-law speaks English very well. Alors, when we visit her in France or when she visits us, we just speak English. She translates everything for us and there is really no need for us to speak French. My husband can understand French and can speak fairly well but never had the time or desire to teach me or our children. I’ve silently held on to my dream during 30 years of marriage. Never wanting to rock the boat or take the time that is required to learn a language. Experiences have been like bread crumbs along the way – experiences that have left me wanting more. I ultimately want to spend more time in France and I don’t want to depend on others to speak for me. I want to fully interact and engage with people in France. Thus, I really, really need to speak French.
You should also know that in my head – I already speak French. Not as in “je parle française”, more like dans ma tète, I think I can speak French. And sometimes I speak this French out loud to the horror of those around me. None more horrified than my French Mother-in-Law’s French husband Jean, who once said angrily out loud in his broken English “Juste speak English”. Apparently he was not amused by my attempt to speak French that day. I always tell him I have a southern French accent – he is still not amused. He doesn’t speak English; therefore our conversations can be quite limited and humorous. I’ve often wondered what I sound like to him. I imagine I sound like a 4 year old child who doesn’t have a grip on the correct pronoun or tense.
We all know the cliché life gets in the way and after a life time of playing around with trying to learn French and tossing around French phrases, I’ve decided to actually learn French. Luckily I have a personality that once I decide to do something, I overdo it. Donc, everything I do right now is connected to learning French. And I mean everything, T.V., movies, games, books, food, wine, classes, road signs, Facebook groups, and podcasts. It is total self-immersion at its finest. Apparently, this is driving everyone nuts, but after all these years I am actually starting to speak French. Vraiment! Je suis!
The task of learning to speak French will take years and will most likely drive my family crazy. They will laugh and yell at me, but I won’t stop and they know I won’t stop and this will drive them more crazy. Interesting enough is the effect it is having on my half French husband – who is having to step up his French as I’m no longer satisfied with simple answers. I have real sentence structure questions, and I need to know maintenant – is that la musée or le musée and sometimes – not often, but on occasion – I’ve corrected him. O.K. not really but I’ll get there.
We are blessed to have a connection with France and my children love all things French – especially the food and lingering meals. I’m proud to say they will pick a good cheese over a piece of cake any day. Shopping for, eating and enjoying cheese is a bond and connection our family enjoys – and a bond many of our friends don’t really get. I love the fact that as a teenager my youngest daughter would say “I like the cheese best when I can taste it in my nose”. And I love that today as a young woman, she will FaceTime (video chat) to show me the GOOD French cheese she found at the supermarket.
Recently, in an attempt to practice the French numbers, I again asked Jack (also known as Jacques in my head), if he wanted to play Go Fish. He promptly and loudly said “Ok GG, but in English!”. “Non, en française”. I replied while smiling at him. Jack sighed and said “ugh GG – stop already”. Then he said “but, do you have any of that French water. I like French water”.
That’s my boy! Et maintenant, avez-vous un cinq mon petit fils?
P.S. I just ordered Jacques (well really myself) a French Bingo (Loto) game. It’s the little things that keep me connected. And the other day on FaceTime (video chat) I received a thumbs up and a oh-la-la from Jean when I shared my new skills.