Viva La France
Gotta love a research trip. Mine is set to go. With flights to France booked for next year and a preliminary itinerary planned, it’s been made real.
This week my French language course books arrived. Tres excitement! Flipping through the pages I’m already recalling my high school French.
I studied the language for three years in secondary school. Funnily enough I recall almost everything I learnt from the first six months and virtually nothing from the next two-and-a-half years. I remember the basics: the numbers, the verb être “to be”, foods and vocabulary, thanks to the Poirot family who liked to eat poisson (fish).
When I began form one (year seven), my family were living for a two-year stretch in a country town in northern Victoria and I went to the Catholic high school where one of the nuns taught French – sans accent. Dare I blame my deplorable French pronunciation on the formidable Sister Austin whose rote learning of verbs and vocabulary impressed the words indelibly into my brain? Perhaps. Sadly, she cannot be blamed for my ongoing struggle to successfully roll my Rs!
We moved back to Melbourne mid-year and I immediately found myself drowning in a class run by a ferocious French woman who refused to allow a word to be uttered not French. To this day, I cannot fathom how she expected me to explain my lack of understanding and language in French, especially when 99 per cent of the time I had no clue what she was saying back to me.
The situation was not helped by her sighting my Term I and II reports where I was shown as an A+ student in French at my previous school. I’m sure she thought I was fudging or lazy.
What I’d understood perfectly well spoken in slow, Australian accented, basic French did not translate coming at me in rapid-fire real French.
Next year, we’ve planned to spend the final two weeks of the trip settled in an authentic French house in a small village in Provence so that I can write up the balance of my notes and write some actual scenes while immersed in the atmosphere and culture of France. This was my one regret from my last novel’s rushed research trip. This time I want to ‘live’ the life (if mostly in my imagination being such a different era) and I see speaking to the locals in the village where we’re staying in their language as an important part. Or at least attempting to.
Armed with a basic French course book, cds and dictionary, I’m hoping to learn to converse enough to pass the time of day and request “un vin blanc, s’il vous plaît” at the very least.
So over the next few months hubby and I are both going to dive into language and all things French in preparation for the trip. Not to mention me researching and sorting heaps of questions, locations and history preparatory to my research around the battlefields in the north.
Here’s hoping any new language and vocabulary I learn will stick too, unlike Mandarin. A recent cleanout turned up my one semester workbook and I was disappointed to realise it was all just Chinese to me.