Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lessons on Cheering up Friends

I borrowed three CDs from the library, to teach myself French.

The first CD made me fluent. I was not allowed to concentrate. Just relax, the teacher said, and later chided gently: Please don’t try to hold on. Then he slid ice-cubes down my neck. It was a sultry day: the ice-cubes were soothing. Also, the ice-cubes were phrases. Unobtrusively, he built the phrases into sentences. Within 45 minutes, I was fluent. I was walking into French cafes and asking other patrons, "What impression – do you have – of the economic and political situation – in France – at the present time?" Or else I was confessing, "I regret – it is not comfortable – for me – like that." I let the phrases melt together and my French was very sighing, very languid.

The second CD, the teacher took my melting ice-cubes and tipped them out onto the lawn. He was kind but firm. He thought I should be reading the textbook. I said, Look, I’m trying to feed Charlie his berry-and-apple ripple here. But he only gave me more instructions. "You are in a market and want to buy some vegetables. Ask if they have any potatoes. Ask if they have any beans." Also: "Your friend is very depressed and you are trying to cheer him up. Tell him he speaks French better than you speak French. Tell him he sings better than you sing. Tell him his garden is more beautiful than your garden."

Once, he surprised me with a moment of educational levity: "And now, an authentic French tongue twister about the price of sausages."

The third CD was a collection of French songs. As soon as I put it on I began to tap my feet. Charlie, in his high chair, swung his legs back and forth. It was folk music. It was the perfect way to learn French! I would dance my way back to fluency! By track 2, however, I realised that the music was unbearable and turned it off.


Anonymous friend (a) said...

Your friend wouldn't believe you because you are always saying nice things. Even in French.

6:11 p.m.  

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