French Lessons: How Much

by Jackie D on February 3, 2017

jackie travels odette parisSo, I started French lessons. I have them once a week at 8am before work, and it’s an hour and a half of me speaking only French with my teacher. She lets me speak for a little while and takes notes of mistakes I make as I go along, and then after I’ve made enough mistakes she’ll stop me and we’ll go over them, and I’ll try again.

Each of the lessons has tended to lean towards one specific topic so far. In one of my first lessons, we got stuck on articles — not the kind you read, but the kind you use to determine the quantity of something. I was trying to say I drank milk, but in French you have to be specific: I drank some milk.

It was one of the first things my teacher pointed out to me about the way that I speak French. I tend to generalize quantity rather than specify a certain amount. I imagine this has to do with the fact that my brain instinctively rejects anything having even the remotest connection to math, but I think it must also be the way I speak in English.

The articles I use most in French are all-encompassing (le, la, les) when really I should narrow down whatever it is I’m actually talking about (de, de la, du, des). Instead of telling my teacher that I was drinking some wine (du vin), I told her that I was drinking ALL of the wine (le vin), like all of the wine that has ever existed. When she corrected me, I wanted to tell her that I understood her point, but that on certain Friday nights I have, in fact, consumed all of the wine. Sometimes Wednesdays also.

I did, however, hold my ground when it came to quiche. She was quick to correct me — no, you did not eat all of the quiche in the world, you ate some quiche — and I was quick to correct her right back — no, I assure you, I have probably eaten all of the quiche in the world, quiche is delicious, I never stop eating quiche.

I guess it’s appropriate that this is one of the first things I’m learning in French: how much of this do you want? How much of this did you have? How many Nazis do you want to punch in the face? Because it’s one of the things that you learn first when you’re a kid — you have to be able to tell someone how much of something you want, need, feel, hear, see, or whatever else — because if you can’t express that, you could die.

Learning a new language is usually not a life or death situation, thankfully, but you do feel as helpless as a little kid while you’re trying to do it. You have to re-learn how to say even the most basic things. When you’re on a roll with vocabulary, you might get excited and start pointing out random things and listing them aloud, like a toddler might do. I’ve done this in public without realizing it. I’m not very popular on the metro.

You get excited when you master even the simplest of sentences: I made my dinner tonight. J’ai fait mon diner ce soir. 

In a previous life I would have been more excited about the fact that I actually made myself a decent dinner, but now I’m just excited if I can tell someone about it and they understand what I mean. They are generally less excited and, often, somewhat bewildered by my excitement, but that doesn’t derail me. My excitement about being Paris outweighs any shame.

How much do I love it here? A lot. Beaucoup. Je l’aime beaucoup.



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