French for Fools

by Nic Olson

My mom bought me a ‘French for Dummies’ compact disc set, so I could learn basic French. I don’t think there is a human being that has had the will or ability to finish an audio language guide since they were invented and instituted in vinyl format. Impossibly boring and possibly ineffective. But practice nonetheless. So I enrolled in French courses, beginning March 3 I have no life from Monday to Thursday for two months. Not that I have a life on those days anyway. But every time some nighttime commitment arises, all that I can think about is how many hockey games I will miss. Not how much money I would make. Nor how many new words I could speak. But how many goals I’d miss. And how many memories I wouldn’t make.

As an Anglophone I was lucky enough to find two jobs in two weeks. Montreal is Montreal, and English speaking jobs exist, but usually only for the bilingual, although that seems backwards. The first job I didn’t need to speak any language, as Marius spoke through hand signals, ‘whoooop-dee-doo’ whistles and hip thrusts. The second job requires a special English that highlights all the hawker vocal tones and cringeworthy jargon that shouldn’t even be a part of any self-respecting language. Oh I forgot, English has no dignity.

So I am learning French. Which I’m sure has it’s downfalls with reasons to be respected. The lady conducting my French class assessment asked me in French if I have studied her language in Saskatchewan, and wondered if we ever use French in Saskatchewan. I replied with a soft ‘No’ and laughed to myself thinking of friends back home cursing the fact that the national anthem was being sung half in French during the Grey Cup where Saskatchewan was playing the league’s French team. Or when someone told me that they didn’t like me anymore because I was moving to Quebec. Gravelbourg, is all I’ve got to say.

I think my French teacher would understand if I took the odd self led class at Primetime to learn the proper way to conjugate the verb shoot (tirer: tire, tires, tire, tirons, tirez, tirent?).

Language is still exhausting, and being here with the lack of knowledge I have makes me feel more like a fool than ever. I have already met dogs and one year old children that have a better grasp than I. Being bilingual or multilingual is something that is important to me. But looking like a complete ass is something that is not important to me. So I’m going to have to make some concessions on either end. I look like a fool everyday anyway, so I guess I know where I’ll concede.