Sunday, July 22, 2012

zher kom-pron

The first time I ever recall touching the french language was in Mr. Thompson's Introductory French class in sixth grade.  Firmly believing that I would never use it, I immediately dropped it at the first chance I got [after the final exam, C+, thank you very much], and never considered learning it again.


I've learned, over the course of the last two and a half-ish months I've been here, that a) one does not come to Paris to learn French, and b) the best place to learn any language is at the dinner table, in a debate, and in bed.  I have the unfortunate news to report, however, that regardless of the French phrasebook I bought in Buenos Aires, my repertoire of sentences I can [somewhat] confidently say can only get me tickets to the metro, food in a restaurant, and a finger wagging in the direction I want to go...

... usually a highly offended and confused look from the person to whom I'm speaking.

Which, in my case, was enough to get by for two and a half months.

Dedicated with wonderful gratitude to my hosts, dance partners, and complete strangers who spoke with me, I present a list of the most interesting things I've learned to say in French, and their translations.

And, of course, the responses I've received when speaking them.


Je m'appelle Joshua.  Je suis enchanté !  or  Enchanté !
My name is Joshua.  I
am enchanted!  or  Enchanted!

Interestingly, this is not the first sentence [or second, third, fourth, etc] that I use upon meeting someone.  Maybe after the second or third meeting is when I finally get to introduce my name.  The enchanted part is in response to said stranger introducing themself.  And until then?  I attempt to explain [in English] what it is I am doing in Paris.


Je suis un étudiant pour le danse.
I am a student of dance.

Not EXACTLY my reason for being in Paris, but at its basic, basic, basic core...  Vaguely close enough.


J'habite à Puteaux avec un ami.
I live in Puteaux with a friend.  Not to be confused with I live in dirty whore water with a friend.

Also not absolutely necessary information people need to know, but I like to attempt to impress the Parisians with what I know how to say.  Unfortunately, the only ones who ARE impressed are female and older than thirty-five.

Je suis désolé, je ne parle pas français.  Parlez-vous anglais ?
I am sorry, I do not speak French.  Do you speak english?

My default phrase when a flurry of French words are thrown in my direction.  Although the person to whom I am speaking normally responds in English [or even Spanish], it's at this point Host 2 will appear out of no where and whisper in my ear, 'You've already said too much.'


Voulez-vous danser avec moi?
Would you like to dance with me?
Voulez-vous guider ?
Would you like to lead?
Je voudrais guider.
I would like to lead.
À gauche, à droite.
To the left, to the right.


Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

Pardon !

The dance basics.  For either partner or solo dancing, these have gotten me incredibly far in all the classes I've taken.


Combien coûte une tablette de chocolat ?
How much is that chocolate bar?

I buy a lot of chocolate here.  A lot.


Je voudrais ... un vin rouge, un vin blanc, une carte, une baguette, un croissant, peroxyde d'hydrogène, etc.
I would like... red wine, white wine, metro tickets, a baguette, a croissant, hydrogen peroxide, etc.

Je cherche...
I am looking for... 
Being the demanding American I am, I've also gotten considerably good at stating what I want.


Merci !  Merci beaucoup !
Thank you!  Thank you very much!

Bonjour, bonsoir, bonne soirée, Bonne nuit.
Hello/Good day, good evening, good evening, good night.

However, being the gentlemanly son my parents raised me to be, I've also learned greetings and farewells.  Interestingly, I might not normally speak to things that can respond.  As a mnemonic device, I greet and say farewell to nouns [sheep, macaroons, Paris, stars, plate, cheeses, etc.] as I learn their translations.  Bonjour, mouton!  Bonsoir, fromage!

Où est ...?
Where is...?

The problem with learning how to ask something in another language is that you REALLY have to understand the answer.  Unfortunately, whenever I ask for the nearest public toilet, the museum, a particular road, or even a monument, I receive a barrage of French words and a series of hand gestures that I can only assume to be French sign language.  So I simply nod and walk in the direction of their last hand gesture.  This, of course, only gets me more lost and late than I originally intended, but hey, at least I got directions in French.


C'est beaux/belle.
It is beautiful.

I once wanted to comment on the atmosphere, the ambience, the aura of the dance room I was in, and I thought that this was what one should say in French.  However, as a friend explained to me, 'Yes, that is how you say it.  But no one in Paris would ever say that, because we complain about everything.'


Je ne regrette rien.
I regret nothing.

La vie en rose.
Life in pink.

Quelqu'un m'a dit…
Someone told me... 

I once was asked by a Parisian to say everything I knew how to say in French, and these came out.  And with each one, he immediately knew to which song I was referring.  'Ah,' he would say, 'Like Edith Piaf,' or, 'Like Carla Bruni.'


Ah, l'été parisien, c'est romantique.
Ah, the Parisian summer is romantic.  

The same Parisian heard me say this, and responded accordingly:  'That eez, ah, like we say, ah, a cliché.'


Ah, c'est trop américain, ça.
Ah, it's too American.  

Host 2 noticed that I tend to shut my mouth and look in the other direction when in the presence of other loud Americans.  When I asked how to curse the Americans in French, this is what I got.


Ah, c'est une autre grosse américaine. 
Ah, it's another fat American.
I learned to say this only because I had crossed paths with a fairly petite American girl who complained LOUDLY at 5 in the afternoon: 'I AM SO HUNGRY I JUST WANT DINNER NOW.'  When I asked how to curse the Americans in response to her complaint, this was the translation I got.


Le fauteuil m'étend les bras.
The armchair reaches its arms out to me.
Possibly my favorite phrase, I wanted to learn how to say, 'I need to sit now,' but a dance partner said that this was the more Parisian thing to say.  Apparently.


Imagine me.  As she.

[le garçon]

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