The first time I came to France, I was lost because I could not figure out much of the language As many of you know, I speak Spanish fluently, but my knowledge of the French language didn't extend beyond a few phrases I picked up from friends who studied French in high school or college. Knowing Spanish was of little help as the vocabularies are really too different.
Fast forward to this year. I took Italian classes two years ago in an attempt to learn the language of my grandparents. Going in, I thought — and everyone told me — I'd have it pretty easy since I speak Spanish and blah, blah blah. Surprise!! While verb conjugations are very similar and some of the vocabulary and most pronunciations are close, I found Italian to be closer to French than to Spanish.
I'm doing much better reading things in French this year since the vocabulary now makes sense/ I do have a bit of a problem with verb conjugations and such, but I can at least read signs (and menus) more easily. I've even increased my French vocabulary to include a number of important words: ouvert (open), ferme (closed), exit (sortie), dimanche (Sunday), lundi (Monday), ou (or), framboises (raspberries), and so on. Actually, I now know all the days of the week and months of the year, directions, and a lot of different foods. Aren't you impressed? :-)
I do have a bit of a problem understanding spoken French, though. Some of these people talk like they have a mouth full of pebbles. Of course, I also have a huge problem speaking French and being understood.
If you've been reading along with us, you may remember that I mentioned trying to tell someone that I love dogs but ended up saying, "I love you the dog." I looked up how to say, "I love dogs," "J'aime les chiens" seems pretty easy, no? Apparently not for me.
We went into a boulangerie to get a baguette today, and some guy was in there with his Pomeranian. I started to talk to the dog, and he was a little snippy and not very friendly (Riley would say that I should expect that from a Pomeranian.). The owner was very nice, but he didn't speak or understand English.... or my version of French.
"J'aime les chiens," I thought I said. (I pronounced it Shgem lay sheen.) The guy took two steps back. I said it again. "J'aime les chiens."
"J'aime les chiens," I repeated. "I love dogs." I patted my heart and pointed to the dog. He looked at me like I was crazy, and the dog turned her head toward her owner.
The gal with whom he'd been talking addressed him. "Gobbledy-gook. Gobbledy- les chiens." I think she told him I wasn't crazy and that I was trying to say I love dogs.
He smiled at me. "Gobbledy-gook. Gobbledy-gook. Gobbledy-gook."
"He saiz zee doog, she eez shy," the woman told me.
"Si. I mean, oui," I replied. "Merci. Au revoir, Pooky!" They all breathed a sigh of relief as we walked out of the store.
Actually, whenever I say, "Merci," "Bon soir" (Good evening!) and "Au revoir," I always get good responses (probably because they don't have to listen to me butcher their language any longer).