Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Le Merdier = a fine mess, a jam, a fix (literally, the shitpile)

Following in the footsteps of American dieters who place carrot sticks in the fridge at eye-level, I have taken lately to leaving my grammar books on display. By fanning them attractively, the stack will someday lure me while en route to other pressing obligations (red wine, couch) and nudge me toward conjugation.

Learning a language and losing weight are not so different, in the end. Both require (I am told) some degree of self-discipline over time. Or, in my case, short bursts of super-hyped effort that will inevitably fizzle in favor of other distractions (white wine, boules).

The similarities don’t end there. Like the dieter who wears too-small jeans as a cilice, the language slacker living abroad benefits from near-constant appraisal of her “progress.” I can read this in the eyebrows of my compatriots: raised = sympathetic, as when speaking to a child; furrowed = really? Two years and this is the best you can do?

I can also measure it by the number of missing words in a conversation: “We went to Normandy over the weekend and ___ ______, then ___ my grandmother _­_ ___ ___ the chicken!” To which I invariably reply, “ah bon? C’est super.”

And like the waistline of the dieter, my language comprehension will advance or retreat significantly during any given month. One week I’m feeling strong; I can watch the Simpsons in french! The next week I’m straining to follow conversation for more than five minutes. Well-worn explanations include: the heat, those iron pills I’m taking, whatever Mercury’s doing, and sobriety.

This month’s scheme: total immersion! Except, of course, for really technical conversations, moments of fatigue, or, ahem, this blog. My American but french-speaking husband will indulge me, my colleagues will coddle me, my friends will be startled (or not) as to how truly un-clever I can be.

So watch this space for updated accounts of french foible-ing, and remind me from time to time about how great life will be once I fit into those jeans.


Anonymous said...

over from Feral Mom.

Surely you could have included the french reference to both the distractions? Ie Vin blanc avec les boules?

Ok- my french is not that great either, but I do know how to order the essentials (vin blanc, vin rouge, etc.)


Carry on. I will be back.

le Meg said...

Poor Le Meg. Tout le monde knows more french then she does. Welcome to my monde.