When my husband and I started to plan our trip to Canada, I realized that I would be going to a country that speaks French, aside from English. I have always been an admirer of this language, because of its beautiful, unique sound. It does have a different appeal to the ear, and sounds utterly sexy, if you may.
With all the excitement of traveling and seeing my brother and his family in mind, one more thing was making the trip more thrilling for me. You guessed it: French speaking.
Even before our Canadian visas landed on my hands (it being a requirement for a non-Citizen), I already trooped to a reliable bookstore for a French Dictionary. I found one, on sale at that. Aside from it being a dictionary, it included ready sentences, phrases and other things –all in French with English translation. I went home excited with my new find and could almost hear myself speaking in a new language, a little amateurish, but with equal panache.
So like a dutiful student, I took my pen and journal to start jotting down commonly used French words and phrases. This would come handy in Canada, I thought.
Like any other language course, the book had an introduction of its vowels and consonants. It appeared difficult because with the letter “a” alone, the book states three different ways of pronouncing it, based on how the letter was written (like with different fonts) or the accent symbol on top of the vowel. Eager as I was, I braved the challenge. I was imagining myself being able to converse eloquently with store clerks once I set foot in that country. And they would not have the slightest hint that I did a self-study. Ambitious me.
I went on daily, devoting at least an hour for my French lessons. The consonants were just as tricky with all the different “look” some letters appear to don themselves. To top it all, many words were spelled lengthily, yet many of the letters were “silent”. Of course, this would drive a beginner like me to sheer madness. Why in the world would they put all of these letters in these words, when in the first place, they know that they would not pronounce them anyway?
So I struggled and struggled. I contented myself with a few important words and phrases: “Comment ca va?” (How are you?) to which the usual reply would be “Ca va” (I’m fine). The numbers seemed cooperative with me at first: “un” (one), “deux” (two, pronounced something like dwa), “trois” (three pronounced like trwa). When I reached “quatre” for four, I felt like my dreams were starting to crumble. It should be pronounced as “katR” (with a seemingly inverted “e” of sorts) –so is it kat’r? katri? Or what?!
With shoulders starting to droop, I went on with the number translation. Then the opposites like “grand” for large versus “petit” for small. Then came the different parts of the human body. “La tete” which means head and “la main” for hand. Despite the interest, I started to feel lost.
The next day, I was so busy with all sorts of household chores that I missed my lesson. The following day, I had to go to my son’s school for some volunteer work. And I missed my French lesson again. Then I finally had the chance to visit this amazing crafts store and bought a cross-stitch pattern of butterflies. I already had my nose buried under my needles and thread when I went over piles of letters on my desk. Lo and behold, the French dictionary said hello! Now it was in its solitude. Nay, it had dust particles for companion. I realized that I had completely forgotten about my quest to speak the language!
Of course it made me sulk for a moment. It made me remember this attitude of mine of going full blast to one direction when interest sets in. Just to end up forgetting all about it after several weeks.
But this one is different! French is no joke! And to learn it without a real teacher, or an audio or video assistance made it more challenging. Besides, who would I speak French to anyway?
Well, we’re leaving for Canada on Friday. When I get there, people would know that I am a tourist. With my unmistakably Asian looks, map in hand and an I-am-lost look, maybe no one would are speak French to me. My English is not so bad either. And of course, I could speak my native language (Filipino) to my brother all I want, 24/7 if I wish to!
So armed only with “merci” and “au revoir”, I’m going to enjoy Canada. If and when I visit Paris, well, that’s a different story…
Let me brag that I am done with my beautiful and colorful butterfly cross-stitch project. All it needs is a lovely frame, and it’s ready to adorn my wall. And since I’m done, I intend to drop by the public library tomorrow. I would like to read about Canada, so I could browse about the county I am visiting….Then maybe I would borrow another book on…how to speak Mandarin perhaps?