Learning French (subtleties of the French language)

Since Kati and I have been in France we have been involved in a great little house church. We had been contact with them through a mutual friend, the awesome Mark Michael, while we were preparing to move abroad. They have been helping us on the ground with information and just plain moral support. So when we arrived we really had a lot to be thankful for:

  • we had others that had made the same transition as us
  • we weren’t alone
  • we had a community that we belonged to right from the get go.

Kati has long reminisced of her last time living in France but had previously found the experience amazing but very lonely at times. So coming in this time has, as she said has been a totally different experience.

On the second night that we were here there was a welcome dinner hosted in our honor at a fancy restaurant (btw the food here is amazing). It is things like this that just made us feel so much more at home. Remember at this point we were living in a hotel so we really didn’t have a home. We were just sort of in this limbo of “Yay you’re in the country now but boo you don’t have a home” but we already felt like we belonged (Thanks Bill and Rachel).

Now that baby is sleeping I finally have time to write this blog. Two Sundays ago was my first Sunday at vintage church. Kati did not join me because she was in orientation but was supposed to come after (incidentally this Sunday was the second of September and so it was Kati’s birthday- the very same day that she got lost). Bill’s parents were in town and they were going to cook us all a fried chicken lunch complete with mashed potatoes and salad. (Yum)

Quick side note and little blurb about vintage church. Vintage Church is a house church or actually several house churches that meet all over Paris on Sunday and they have both groups in English and in French. The one that Bill and Rachel host is of course an English one but that doesn’t mean we don’t greet and sometimes talk in French. I mean come on we are in France and thus this was the beginning of the problem. During the lunch after church we were all telling stories around the lunch table eating some delicious grub when I found myself remembering my time in French Canada during the summer before Kati and I met when I was still a music major in college. Since we were on the subject of food I decided to talk about having cheese curds (squeaky cheese) and in particular a dish served there with this squeaky cheese called poutine which is basically fries, cheese curds, and gravy- making it about the worst dish possible for human consumption. Remembering Kati’s frequent French lessons to me, I pronounced this word not how the Canadians say it but how the French would say it (or so I thought). Alas the result was silence at the table followed by a question. “what did you say?”.

Now just having finished my TELF certificate before I came here I learned about a concept called beautiful mistakes. The concept is as follows: do not be embarrassed about mistakes but make them boldly because it creates learning moments and we all will benefit from these learning moments. What this does is it helps with student confidence to make mistakes and thus creates confidence when learning a language. So with this new background knowledge, or schema as my teacher Ramen would say, would tell you that I repeated the word just as loud and boldly as the first time. Again nobody really understood what I was trying to say but was understanding what I was actually saying. After about 10 times of saying it I just said the word how the French Canadians say it and a giggling and looks of relief spread across the the table.

Apparently I had just cursed several times at the table. Embarrassed but enjoying the moment I leaned over to Pierre Charles a Frenchmen sitting next to me to ask him what I had said. He said it doesn’t quite make sense in English but it is the equivalent of our f bomb. I smiled masking my horror that I had just dropped the f bomb no less that ten times at church and continued our various conversations until the meal concluded.

While all mistakes are beautiful according to Ramen I need to say that some are slightly less beautiful than others. I believe that this mistake illustrates perfectly the burden and fun of learning a foreign language and the subtleties of French.

À la prochaine.


4 responses to “Learning French (subtleties of the French language)

  1. How funny! I had a similar experience in Kentucky when I was explaining to a newly arrived German girl why I hate avocados. I said the texture was just to mushy and made me gag. She was horrified. I then learned that mushy is VERY similar to the colorful way a man might refer to a private area of a woman. Talk about changing the meaning of why I don’t like eating avocados!

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