I took four years of French in high school and one semester in middle school. I was very good at it, if I may say so myself–and I’m not just taking the teachers’ words for it. Once, at the train station in Paris, I struck up a conversation with an old woman who was there with her dog (one can only make so many silly faces at a pup before one must converse with its owner). We chatted for maybe five minutes, about her dog and the train schedule and where we were each going. She then asked me if I was from the south of France. When I said I was American, she looked shocked. That was probably the best compliment I could have received.
Fast forward something like twelve years and my French is rusty. Like an old bike that’s been rotting under the trees kind of rusty. Every couple of years or so I try to polish it up and take it for a spin, but inevitably decide it’s too much work for too little benefit. But now, as my daughter proves to be quite a quick language learner and my son begins to catch up, I think it’s a good time to break out the old second language so that when the time comes, I can help them learn it, too. So here we go.
My first French teacher started class not with a grammar lesson, but with a set of sentences for us to memorize. I enter the classroom (J’entre dans la salle de classe). I look around me (Je regarde autour de moi). I find my desk (Je trouve mon pupitre). And so on. It worked very well, as every day we all did these things, and we could narrate them in our minds in real time. As I’m not the most grammatical of learners, I decided to start with this technique, and to start slow, only introducing a couple of unfamiliar words as I sort of dip my toes back into it. So here’s the set of sentences I’m going to try to learn this week (and maybe they’ll help reaffirm some other good habits, as well):
I wake up every day when my daughter wakes up.
(Je me réveille chaque matin quand ma fille se réveille.)
I nurse her.
I change her diaper.
(Je change sa couche.)
I give her to her father.
(Je la donne à son père.)
I run on the treadmill.
(Je cours sur le tapis de course.)
I take a shower.
(Je prends une douche.)
I get dressed.
I take the baby back.
(Je reprends le bébé.)
I kiss my son and my husband.
(J’embrace mon fils et mon mari.)
I tell them I love them.
(Je les dis que je les aime.)