29 July 2009

Vous comprenez ?

Firstly, some updates :
1. I am going to Paris (yay !)
2. For higher studies (?)
3. And general merriment shall follow of course!

Now, the French are supposedly a bit cranky and obsessive about their language. They all know English. To tell you the truth, you can get away with English anywhere in Europe. It is just that the French often use French as a subtle mode of defiance against their century old rival.

It has only been the 20th century when the pretentious show of friendship started, probably because the Brits hated the Germans even more and took sides with France when Hitler’s troops came for a walk in Paris (1940). Before this era, these two nations fought so many wars that it seemed that all they did was fight. Plus, the French always believed that they are culturally, linguistically, architecturally superior to Britain(which in my opinion is true), even though Britain ended up having the bigger empire and English being spoken by more people. So, yeah! It is understandable that they dislike each other. No one can say that in the open; especially with the emergence of the European Union and European identity as cool things to talk about.

The trouble is that I have to know some French as a result :)

Now, on the face of it, there is no need to worry. I did study it during school (4 years..........................impressive huh!!). But that ended almost 7 years ago. I have already forgotten half of my Hindi and expecting a similar treatment for French is just fair. Anyways, I arranged for some books to brush up. For people in a similar situation, I would suggest the “Collins French Traveller’s Dictionary & Phrase Book”, which even has a romantic footnote on the cover just to cheer things up-“the first comprehensive language companion for travellers”.(The image shown is the cover of the copy I have, scanned. I assume it may serve as a proof of the degree of idle time I have.) My uncle, who stayed in Paris for almost 2 years gave it to me and said that it is much more valuable than any grammar I learn later. This book has chapters according to the situations which a traveller generally encounters- Airport and flight inquiries, Buses and subways, Food and drink, Chemist, Bank .etc and has phrases in French with their pronunciation and English translation, which one would have to say for conversing in those situations. Some of my personal favourites are:

Je ne parle pas très bien français. (I don’t speak French very well.)

Parlez plus lentement, s'il vous plaît. (Please speak more slowly.)

Vous comprenez? (Do you follow?)

Est-ce que je dois? (Do I have to?)

J’ai écrasé un chien. (I have run over a dog.)

Un paquet de Marlboro, s’il vous plait. (No translation needed)

Je pars. (I am leaving.)