Monday, May 6, 2013

I'm Not Buying Leather

Photo by Benh, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

One week from today.

It’s finally here. One week from today, my husband Calvin and I will be flying to Paris to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Cal announced the trip to me as my Christmas gift (you can read the whole story here).

My job since December has been to re-learn French. At one point in my life, I was fluent-ish. But after 25 years of non-use, I could conjugate non-irregular verbs, but not much more. So I found an online French program. Last week, I completed the course. However, my concern is that instead of making me fluent, it’s made me dangerous. I know just enough to get totally lost/confused/insulting.

In the back of my head are the stories my friends have told me. A friend who gave a lecture in theology and used the wrong noun gender and ended up speaking about pantyhose (though that was Spanish). Or the friend who was explaining when she and her husband were going to have children—let’s just say that what was supposed to be a matter-of-fact answer ended up being a bit too intimate. Or the friend who was trying to explain that her children were twins and ended up telling someone she had two chicken eggs (that was in Japanese). Or even the friend of mine who grew up speaking French and English and sometimes gets the words “tong” and “thong” confused. She always gets nervous when serving salad to guests. And I make my own mistakes, my husband tells me that I still misuse some English prepositions—Dutch has some prepositions that are the same in sound, but they don’t mean the same thing in English.

Of course if I get really stymied in French, I can always say, “Parlez-vous anglais ou nĂ©erlandais?” On the other hand, the Dutch I speak is old almost Victorian—it uses thee and thou. (Dutch underwent some modernization in the ’70s, long after my mom and her parents emigrated.) So when I speak Dutch, everyone thinks I’m “so cute.” Not exactly what I’m going for, but communication is communication. And if worse comes to worst, I can always say, “Est-ce que c’est vrai cuir?” (Is this real leather?) Why a language program would bother to teach this is beyond me. I’ve never needed to ask this in English, so why in French? Then again, You’ve Got Mail taught me: “People do really stupid things in foreign countries…They buy leather jackets for much more than they're worth. But they don't fall in love with fascist dictators.” But I have no plans to buy a leather jacket or fall in love with a fascist dictator. 

BTW, Luke and Ariel graduated this Saturday. Here are some photos.

Here is my chemist and my mathematician.

Here are some of the 3000 graduates.


  1. Aw! I hope you enjoy Paris! It's such a wonderful city although I've never been able to visit the landmarks.

    How many languages do you speak? I know the French are iffy with foreigners not speaking French but I'd like to hope they appreciate you trying at least.

  2. Have a wonderful time! And yes, stay away from those too-expensive leather jackets! (I am reminded of my love for You've Got Mail, and really thinking I should watch it again. It's been ages.)

  3. Oh, wow! Such excitement going on!
    Congrats to Luke and Ariel!!

    And have a FAB time in Paris. (I'm so jealous)

  4. So many wonderful things are going on in your world right now. Congrats on the new graduates, and yowza! Almost Paris time! It's going to be fantastic. Take lots of pictures and mental notes so you can show and tell when you get back home.

  5. Oh, sweet and romantic Paris! What a wonderful way to spend your anniversary. Enjoy!