Bonjour, Monsieur

I have always thought that it would be SO COOL to speak a whole mess of languages. Unfortunately, the operative word for me is MESS.

I have been reading up on Paris, and the one thing that “experts” seem to agree upon is that Parisians appreciate an effort to speak French. When entering a shop, it’s imperative to make a good impression (aka, not seem like an American dick) by saying, “Bonjour, Madame/Monsieur.”

Well, guess who can’t pronounce “monsieur” to save her life? (Or spell it, I’m learning as I write this.)


Even when trying to picture a very simple exchange, I panic and revert to the language I studied in school — Spanish. Por favor! (Which, by the way, I passed AP Spanish but have still been told that my accent is terrible. I can’t even roll my r’s… it’s some sort of recessive tongue gene??)

Spanish makes sense to me. Spanish is phonetic, more or less. In Spanish I can tell if something is plural because if there’s an “s” on the end — it’s not like… magically silent, but I’m supposed to just infer the plural-ness.

It kinda feels like half of the letters in French are silent?? Who’s to know???

That’s one complaint I’ll lodge against Duolingo — they teach you vocab, but they don’t teach you the… theory, I guess? Or how to conjugate?? So it’s just like — this is French, love it or leave it!

C’est la vie!

I’ve also come across a few templates that teach you how to make a dinner reservation over the phone, but don’t give you any examples of how the other person might respond (in French). Here’s one from Eater:

Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 3.07.54 PM

First of all, let’s hope I want a table for two on the 15th of October at twenty o’clock, right?? (And that I don’t accidentally book for 20 people at 15 o’clock, etc etc.) And let’s ALSO hope I know how to pronounce vingt! (I do not.)

It’s going to be apparent PRETTY QUICKLY that I don’t actually speak French when you hear my terrible butchering of every last one of those words. And even if I manage to trick you — the jig will be up when I have NO IDEA what you’re saying back to me.

But anyway, it’s been a pretty hilarious back-and-forth, me trying to pronounce “monsieur” and Sam correcting me, and me getting nervous and laugh-y and somehow worse as I go.

BTW, Sam doesn’t speak French. But he seems confident that he knows how to pronounce “monsieur,” so that puts him ahead of me on the curve.

Last time I was in Paris, I remember feeling like I could totally nail French if I just stayed for, like, a month. I also don’t recall whether I ever actually said “monsieur.” Possibly I just pronounced it terribly and nobody flinched. So… maybe it was false, teenaged confidence.

For the record, I am REALLY good at “bonjour.” I’ve got that one word down pat.

Oh, and we also read that if you really like something, you can say “ooh la la” but add as many la’s as you want. So I’m also really good at “ooh la la la la la la la la!”

Which nobody is going to say about my French.

But from what I’ve heard, everybody speaks English anyway. So maybe this rant was just to prove that I still speak English with APLOMB.


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