you know your is pretty mal when parisian four-year-olds rirant hysterically every time you parlez.
i was teaching in paris over le weekend and even though it was billed as “taught in anglais”, i thought it would be a bon opportunity to dust off my cinq ans of high school francais lessons.
keep in mind, that first of all, i was up all night trying to construct simple sentences like “sit still” or “close your eyes.” i could remember “close your eyes” quite easily for some reason (“fermez les yeux”), so i was sure to say that one as often as possible.
anyway, once les enfants showed up for the class, i introduced myself and told them (en francais) how bad my french was…not that i needed to tell them that. literally, as soon as i started talking, all the kids started laughing. and the more i talked, the more they laughed.
the interpreter was called in at that point. best part: she wasn’t only translating my english. apparently, she decided my pauvre efforts at le francais were so bad that she had to translate those as well. like when you watch “trainspotting” and their cockney english is accompanied by english subtitles…because it’s english…but like english from another planet.
when i speak french, there is no regard to conjugation, tense, first or second person, plural or singular, or any other grammatical rules. all i care about is if i can magically remember a mot, i say it.
anyway, here’s le thing. when you are teaching kids, everything is about connection. and when you need an interpreter, the connection deteriorates chaque time the interpreter steps in. by the middle of the class, i had all but given up on my francais and left it to the unwitting interpreter to take care of the rest. in essence, she was now teaching the class.
it was unfortunate, as i was not able to draw the kids in on any level but the physical. they had fun, but that’s it. a good reminder to me that all the talking and joking i do with kids in america isn’t just me being funny. it’s me establishing rapport…connecting…and being able to change lives.
au revoir, francais. je t’aime, mais je returne a america ou les enfants comprendes moi. 🙂