Lessons in Frenglish

Let me explain my relationship with the French language. In 7th grade, I was in a class called International Foreign Language, where we were basically given a smorgasbord of different languages and cultures to learn about. French, Spanish, German. Needless to say, I quickly fell in love with French. Can’t really explain it; maybe it was how it sounded, the chateaus, the croissants. By the time I reached 9th grade, where I could finally choose which language to study, there was no doubt: français all the way.

Sigh. My high school French teacher had this on the wall. Gazed at it way more than the stuff on the board.
Sigh. My high school French teacher had a poster of this chateau on the wall. Gazed at it way more than the stuff on the board.

However. There’s a difference between hearing that lilting language and learning it. I came to despise verb conjugations and masculine vs. feminine. All I wanted was to move to Paris and communicate with the proprietors of various boulangeries. I didn’t sign up for passé composé and conditionnel. (If you speak French, congratulations for knowing what I’m referring to, and you feel my pain, don’t you? Or do you, le traitor?) But guess what? The love was too strong. I couldn’t leave. Deep down, I didn’t want to. Year and after year, I sat in the next-level French class (somehow passing, might I add), convinced that the same remedial part of my brain that couldn’t get Math was stopping me from comprehending the mechanics of this language. Yet I was still hopeful that I’d join the ranks of the kids who were now practically fluent.By the time sophomore year in college came and it was time to take a language course, the Stockholm Syndrome returned. I signed up for French like an automaton, forgetting that those conjugations and verbs weren’t going anywhere.

Enter Professor Oliver Morgan.

Prof. Morgan's twin.
Prof. Morgan’s twin.

He looked like Tim Matheson. I suppose that’s what stopped me from dropping the class. (This Square Peg freely admits moments of superficiality.) He was also charming, had a wry and cool sense of humor, and was a great teacher. I couldn’t stand him. Read on. I could see it his eyes: he was going to teach me French whether I liked it or not. He wasn’t going to throw his hands up in defeat like my French teachers in the past who couldn’t get me to speak in anything other than present tense and short phrases, which therefore allowed me to rest on my laurels and gaze at posters of chateaus. He was going to woo me with stories of his French wife and their bilingual children who spent 6 months of the year in France. He was going to call on me and force me to speak to him only in French. And because I saw that determination in his eyes, how he ignored my scowls and sarcasm, I found him highly irritating. In the end, I supposed that determination and his handsome face worked. I started paying attention in class. My comprehension improved somewhat. I passed tests with more than my ability to remember vocabulary words. Because essentially, that was it, the problem I had from the beginning: I could remember all the words. I just struggled to put them all together and in the correct tenses. Finally, in Senior Year, I took my last French class. Guess who the professor was? We had a much better time together.

Last year, I met some new French-speaking friends who, to my everlasting shock, marveled at my “perfect” French accent. I almost collapsed. I told them of my past struggles. They waved it off and continued complimenting me and said to stick with it. Whaaat? Following that, some friends and I went on a trip to Montreal, where I stunned myself by conversing with people in my usual Frenglish, but–wait for it–more French than English! Again, whaaat?

One day, my dream of living in France will come true. I, too, will walk to the local bakery and order mountains of baguettes like Professor Morgan’s children. I figure that living there and being immersed in the language and culture will cause a miraculous loosening of my brain and tongue, releasing all the French hiding in the medulla since was I was 14 years old. Until then, Frenglish it is.

Oh, other lessons I learned: 1) try, try again; 2) don’t give up; 3) eat lots of sweet bread.

 

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real talk (gratitude).

Something a bit different this Gratitude Friday.

I’ll start by telling you that I wasn’t the kind of girl that the boys ran after. Those kind of girls were a different set; far removed from my small group of funny, wisecracking nerds who liked to correct your grammar and spout critiques about books and independent films. We were silly, goofy, at times obnoxious and snobby, in love with British movies and the Academy Awards, lovers of Barbra Streisand and musical theater. We were gangly and chubby and average and mostly unsure of ourselves, but somehow this was ok. Yet, although I was largely content with my little group of like-minded friends, admittedly, I sometimes looked at those other girls with longing. Gorgeous, popular, constantly on homecoming court, and always attached to a boy. Wouldn’t that life be far more interesting than teenaged Oscar parties with a little contraband champagne to celebrate the winners?

Adolescent longings go away. I am now a grown woman and 90% content with who I am inside and outside, with the 10% being the welcomed merry-go-round of constant change and improvement to the woman inside. But you know what? There remain vestiges of that little girl inside who longed to have a beau on her arm, although cute and cuter (the only requirements back then) have been replaced with spiritual, kind, mature, generous, faithful, and…cute. Let’s say handsome. Anyway. It would be nice to be the kind of woman who walks into a room and shuts it down. It would be nice to stop traffic, to turn heads, to so and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, please: I appreciate my beauty. It’s ethnic and different and unique and comes from Mom and Dad, and I love that, especially the latter, more than I can say. But those longings sometimes pop up here and there, you know? They do. Nevertheless, I’ll venture to say that those little girls and teenagers we left behind don’t vanish completely. They’re just quieter and far too impressed with the women we’ve become to complain. But once in a while, they just won’t pipe down.

Therefore, on this Gratitude Friday, I present 10 things I truly and wholly love about my physical self. Note that these were aspects of myself that, in the past, I despised, felt embarassed by, hid, and/or never noticed and appreciated.

  1. My eyes, which have a curious almond shape that remind me of my mother and my grandmother.
  2. My lips, which are big and shapely and come from my father.
  3. My legs, which–hello, Dolly–are shapely and loved to be shown off, when possible, by yours truly.
  4. My round face.
  5. The gap in two front teeth.
  6. My hands.
  7. The dimple in my right cheek.
  8. My smile.
  9. My ears.
  10. The way I am shaped. It’s not an hourglass, but it’s feminine and it’s mine.

 

What are you grateful for, loves?

Thursday and Friday.

I’m sure you’re wondering what I wore yesterday? And if I’m grateful for anything today? Have you? Well, since I forgot to post what I wore yesterday, let’s combine the two, shall we?

Gratitude

1. You, because you visit this blog.

2. You, because sometimes you click “like.”

3. You, because sometimes you leave a comment.

4. Anyone who supports my writing.

5. My 4th grade teacher, who inspired me to become a writer in the first place. (Have I mentioned her before? I am mentioning her again. I love you, Mrs. Chrytzer!)

6. My 11th grade English teacher, who recognized my love of writing and shaped it by saying, “I think you should major in English in college. That would be perfect for you.” (And I did, and it was.)

7. My mother, who shaped my love of writing and storytelling from the beginning by telling the most marvelous stories and introducing comic books and fairy tales into the lives of her daughters.

8. My creative writing professor in college, who taught me the value of research in fiction. It’s important!

9. My old college friend, who told me to stop using writer’s block as a crutch for not writing.

10. Music and art, for being the best friends this writer could ask for.

Ok!

Fashion

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It’s Casual Friday here at the farm, so the details on what I’m wearing:

Skinny jeans, gifted to me by my sister. I was late to the skinny jeans thing, so, in actuality, she forced me to wear them. They’re nice. I’d like to happily report though that they’re now a bit loose. Time for new (skinny) jeans…

Cowl neck blouse – this may have come from Mom’s cloest. Love cowl necks. You can’t really tell from the photos, though. Plus, I tend to pull up the cowl part, which hangs a bit low, to prevent the entire office from seeing the world up top, if you get mah drift…

Silver chain, Avenuethey have terrific accessories. Got this one on sale.

Cream Crystal Studded Beret, Claire’s – one of the purchases I made when I did this three weeks ago.

Standard Black Boots – the usual. I live in these things.

Bon weekend, all!

What ‘tude? Gratitude.

In line with an interesting conversation I had with a pair of lovely friends last night, I decided that every Friday is now Gratitude Friday. Why, exactly?

I tend to be a Negative Nancy. It’s really Negative Ninja Nancy, because when I’m being so-called positive, I’m quietly, methodically sneaking in complaints like nobody’s business. (I eat the same way.) So every Friday, I’ll list 10 things I’m grateful for. Simple gratitude.

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1. My faith.
2. My mother.
3. My sissy and younger bros.
4. My…oh, God, it hurts…my job.
5. My creativity.
6. My late father’s sense of humor, love of eclectic music, and sitcoms, all of which I inherited.
7. A roof over my head.
8. Amazing, amazing, amazing friends and extended family. They’re incredible, all of them.
9. Life.
10. My 4th grade librarian, who let an extremely shy girl hide in the library instead of going to recess. I discovered some of my most beloved books in that library.

Ten more next week!

Tell me what you’re grateful for, won’t you?