Speaking French

My French ability is limited. Even though my eighteen year old self says: what’s to worry about? You can say hello. order beer and say the word shit. Job done, what more vocabulary do you need? 

Unfortunately, the Swizzers like to speak French…a lot. It is their country, after all. They mainly speak German, but we are in the French bit – thank gawd – but I still utter the hopeful phrase parlez-vous Anglais? more often than I should and it is generally greeted with bemusement and a shake of the head. I am going to have to learn some decent French tres vitte (as they say) or I am going to be like Rainman next to my wife. I can’t count cards, so unless I learn some other useful skill she may leave me at the border next time we travel…

I have done French courses before but have found them terribly frustrating; a hour or two of rock hard grammar (which is tremendously important, apparently) followed by soul destroying exchanges like this:

French Tutor: Michael, could you ask to buy a powerdrill en francaise?

MrShev: Okay, I’ll give it a go…Bonjour Madame. Je voudrais un foret de puissance, sil vous plait?

French Tutor: No, no, no. A drill is feminine so you must use the une.

MrShev: You’re messing with my head. Feminine?

French Tutor: It’s feminine…so une. You don’t actually hear the difference between un and une –  but believe me a Parisien will thrown their cafe au lait in your face for less…

Mrshev: Okay…Bonjour –

French Tutor: No, no, no. It’s [checks watch] nearly eleven, so it is actually bonjóur. If you miss the little dash over the o it is like – how do you say?  – spitting in someone’s face when you have a head cold.

Mrshev: Bonjóur Madame – 

French Tutor: No, no, no. Calling me Madame instead of Madamme is  – how do you say it? – like calling a woman a whore who sleeps with stray dogs.

Mrshev: Bonjóur Madamme. Je Vous –

French Tutor: Have you slept with me?

MrShev: What? No, you’re ugly.

French Tutor: You can only use vous when you know someone intimately…otherwise it is vouz. The difference is when you make a small guttural sound like this [makes inaudible guttural sound]. If you said that to a lady in a shop she would be perfectly within her rights – according to French law – to kick you in the viande et deux legumes.

Mrshev: Bonjóur Madamme. Je Vouzdrais un foret de puissance, sil vous plait?

French Tutor: [claps hands] Well done, but you wouldn’t have been able to buy one anyway as the hardware shops in France open between 8.46am and 9.32am then there is an eight hour break for lunch and by then it is the French holiday of éraflure de tete and then the summer holidays and you would have to wait until September…when it’s illegal to sell power drills in the morning because of the French Revolution unless you have a beard.

MrShev: Merde. What’s nail in French?

(Right – I know I have a bunch of Gallics reading my blog and I know that it must be almost impossible to resist – like fresh, pumping type-a to a vampire – but please bite on a pillow or smash some jars of Marmite or something instead of telling me there is no such word as vouz or madamme or whatever. I know I am a Petite Islander with no linguistic flair: je sais…met,  parlez avec le main, okay?)

Well, I will blog post in French one day – that’ll be funny. Not.

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12 thoughts on “Speaking French

    1. Typical – even after reading a post about my difficulty in speaking French, a Frenchman (a parisian no less) replies in French!

      Anyway, Michael, I will try and help with your understanding of the Cheese Eating Neutrality Monkeys…

  1. I never understood in French lessons why the teacher made so much of a fuss about “oh, the French wouldn’t understand you if you pronounce it like that” – surely if it’s close enough they’d be able to guess what you mean, even if it does sound tortured.

    Maybe I should just let this go, it’s been a long time since I went to school.

  2. excellente ma petit chou fleur avec beaucoup de chomage.

    My french is bad too, but I like to make most of it up. English people don’t realise it’s a load of bobbins when I say it.

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