30 Minus 2 Days of Writing: French (8/28)

Feb 08

Ahhh Montreal… the city in which I found a night of magical conversation, en français.

“J’ai bu beaucoup de bières”

Pardon my French, if this is butchered. It’s been many years since I’ve used any French. But, if I did it right, it basically says “I drank a lot of beers.”

See, when I went back to college, I was a non-traditional student. I went to a college in Central Pennsylvania — Pennsyltucky, if you will — and part of the curriculum made me take a foreign language.

Realize this — I never had to take a foreign language in high school. I do well enough with English and would prefer to leave it that way. Apparently, that wasn’t good enough for the school, so I had to take a foreign language.

I decided on French, figuring it might help me in my obsessive yearly trips to Montreal. Little did I know this wasn’t going to be an easy chore. Especially trying to deal with many other things for college.

Not only did I have to take French, I had to get through four semesters of it — and I wasn’t allowed to take French I four different times.

Crap.

I learned quickly that I could be funny and get by. I never did much more than a C in those classes (which really stunk, considering it was probably the reason I missed Dean’s List each semester). I had the same professor for three of the semesters and she was amazingly awesome. She was patient and worked with kids.

She realized how hard I had it with this language. Conjugations, and different tenses. Language of love my rear! It’s the language of “Holy crap, this is hard!”

Still, I battled through.

Every Monday, she would ask me what I did that weekend. My responses, 90 percent of the time, was the same.

“J’ai bu beaucoup de bières”

She would laugh and move along to the next person. Whew!

Many times, that was true. After all, I was in college. And, it turns out, it was also a time when I actually studied French. See, my neighbor at the one apartment complex I lived in was a French exchange student. Besides being beautiful with an amazing accent, she was a lot of fun to hang out with. And she found it entertaining to try and help me and a few others in the complex with our French after we had been tipping back a few cold ones.

I never thought much of it.

Then came one of my trips to Montreal. We were in one of our favorite watering holes — The Mad Hatter. This place, for us, is a whole heap of fun because of the deck in the summer. And people are so friendly. Several people who worked at the bar remembered us year after year.

This particular year, I struck up a conversation with a few Montreal co-eds and had a grand time. There were quite a few Molsons involved, too, so I’m sure it was a night in a haze. But I do remember being told they’d see us out and about the next evening, which is always a good thing.

That’s when it gets a bit better.

You don’t think much of how a night goes until you sit back and reflect. Or get a shocking reminder.

We met up with the co-eds the next night. My mind wasn’t a fog as we had spent a day doing many things. I was just enjoying my first cordial when the ladies showed up. Allow me to reenact the conversation, as I remember it.

“Bonjour.”

Me, looking around. “Uhhh… bonjour?”

“Comment ça va?”

Me… “Uhhh. ça va?”

I think, that that point, I had gotten things right… but my tone was probably setting off some alarms.

One of the gals then said a few other things – en français, of course. That made my sober head spin. All I could say was…

“Huh?”

At that point, my friends were bursting out in laughter.

Turns out the night before, when I was in a different state, I was speaking en français — nearly fluently, to my surprise. Apparently, everything I was saying was correct and I guess I sounded native. This night, with a sober mind, I had no clue what the heck was being said, save a word or two that I could recall.

The only thing I could figure were those late-night study sessions after a few hours at the local pub.

These days, I’m lucky if I could put a sentence together in French. No matter what, though, I know there was that one night in Montreal when four semesters of that language truly worked out.

I can only imagine stumbling into class on Monday and being asked by my professor how my weekend was.

“J’ai bu beaucoup de bière et parlait le Français.”

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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26 comments

  1. Funny, I always found my French improved immeasurably the more I drank. Weird, eh?
    nonamedufus recently posted..30DW2-2 – Day 8: FrenchMy Profile

    • I’m starting to think maybe it just gave me more confidence to say some stuff in French and then I got on a roll. Who knows. I bet it would have made for a good video though!
      P.J. recently posted..Train comingMy Profile

  2. Great story. Our teacher always told us that you knew you were learning the language when you dreamed in it!
    laughingmom recently posted..30 Days of Writing Minus 2 – FrenchMy Profile

    • I can see the dreaming part. I don’t think my prof ever said “You’ll remember it better after you’ve been boozing.” Although that would have ruled!

  3. I had 3 years of French in high school. I remember some. Among what I remember most are numbers, months, days, and the names of food. I had problems with the grammar, though. Tough.

    In preparation for today’s post, I found a great language site. Time to brush up on my French.
    Linda recently posted..Le modèle françaisMy Profile

    • I can still count to 10. I think, if you pressed me, I could do the days of the week. And the alphabet. Maybe a few words. Then all that le, la, and all that stuff… would take me down!

  4. After a few I lose my ability to speak in anything but English.
    Shawn recently posted..FrenchMy Profile

  5. On my 3rd trip to Paris, I found I could speak and understand more than I realized I could. Weird. I think I need to go back and stay there for 5 or 30 years.
    Linda Medrano recently posted..Me and My OCDMy Profile

    • I can pick up some stuff when it’s being spoken to me. Well, until the speed picks up. Then my head spins.

  6. Drinking improves my language skills, too. Normally I can speak a few different languages, but after a few glasses of wine, I’m practically a genius. At least according to myself….
    Ziva recently posted..FrenchMy Profile

    • 10-12 languages? At least? International woman of mystery?

      • Hah! Oh yes, that’s me. 10-12 languages. Totally.

        Really, though, I speak Swedish and Finnish fluently, I get by in English, and if I’m horribly drunk I might be able to make myself understood in a few more, like French, Spanish and German. Norwegian, too, come to think of it. Not to mention Yoda-speak.
        Ziva recently posted..FrenchMy Profile

        • I bet it would be fun to hear you switch from language to language as you get deeper and deeper into the wines.

          • Hah! I think by the end of the night everyone would be incredibly confused. You’d be speaking flawless French and I’d be speaking some mangled form of Swenglish. :D
            Ziva recently posted..My 15 Minutes Of FameMy Profile

          • Alas, I think people would be way more interested in your Swenglish than my flawless French. ;)

  7. Hey P.J.! Damn, all I had to do was get DRUNK?! Good grief, that would have made high school so much better. Indigo
    Indigo Roth recently posted..The Seventh ScrapeMy Profile

  8. Before I was fluent in french, I would note that my french did get better when I drank. But that could all have been an illusion too!

    Man, the Mad Hatter. I think the last time I was there we closed the place.
    mike recently posted..She Wears Her Name WellMy Profile

    • I wish it happened more than once. I think everything just lined up to make me be fluent … for one night only!

      As for the Mad Hatter. There are many times we’ve been the last out of there. I love that place. I haven’t been to Montreal since 2009, but I hope I’d still love it when I get back up there!
      P.J. recently posted..Train comingMy Profile

  9. Well, P.J. the next time you come up to Montreal, we’re going to have to get you drunk and listen to you speak French. :-)
    Nicky recently posted..She Wears Her Name WellMy Profile

    • If all goes well, you might get that chance this summer! We’re planning it, but it depends on finances. My fingers remain crossed!

  10. I took French in third grade and then in high school. I did pretty well. Not great, but not bad. Then they told me to take Spanish in college “because it will be easier for you.” FAIL. Now I speak FRANISH. Why did I listen!
    Katherine recently posted..15 MinutesMy Profile

    • Yikes. So abandon a language you have some idea of to do an “easier” one? Sounds like bad advice!

  11. I guess the moral of the story is not to overthink things. There you were getting sloppy, all the while you’re chatting up some young ladies in a foreign language. That’s the Tao of Liquid Courage, I guess.
    KZ recently posted..All Things FrenchMy Profile

    • Nah, I never overthought it. I think my brain somewhere said “let’s woo these gals and have some fun.” And for one night that liquid courage went bilingual!

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