Friday, 17 May 2013


Finally a quiet moment. The baby is having a much needed nap and the husband has gone off, clad in lycra, to rendezvous with some local MAMIL's at a roundabout, somewhere in the village, for a bike ride.

The morning was spent with the five year old's class, who were pony riding:

While the ten year old may have jumped off the bus after his class's overnight excursion, having had the time of his life (oh the was almost euphoric, as it could have gone either way), and the eleven year old has already brought home a party invitation, the five year old is struggling with school. After a week and a half, the novelty has worn off. He has no recollection of his term at school in France in 2010....which isn't surprising, as way back then he had just turned three, could barely speak English, let alone French and we had shamelessly and messily rushed him through his toilet training so that he could attend.

Before we left Hobart, just over three weeks ago, he was proud that he knew three French words.....'Jean Pascal' - the name of a French baker in Hobart, 'pain au chocolate' - of course and 'crocodile' - which is, both languages.  We are so hoping that by subjecting our children to French while they are still young, it will be easier for them to learn....or that's what we keep telling ourself.

Learning French is hard. I know because I've been tormenting myself with trying to learn it ever since I first started boarding school in Sydney in Grade 6 and French was de rigueur. During my very first class ever, the  French teacher - a Parisienne, who wore couture, chain smoked and was the wife and muse of a very famous Sydney sculptor - slapped me across the face for cheating....I was so at sea I hadn't even been able to work out which page of the textbook we were on let alone been able to get my wits together to cheat. Needless to say, I cried foul to my parents, who at the time lived on a remote Indonesian island somewhere between Singapore and Jakarta and were incommunicado most of the we're talking about those hazy days well before the internet when even a letter took the best part of four weeks to reach it's destination. They were horrified.....until they sat next to this very same French teacher on a flight between Paris and Sydney, where they all got on the fags (we are talking about a very long time ago) and the vin rouge and got on like a house on fire. They refused to believe that this could possibly have been the same woman.

Scarred as I was, I didn't take up French again until mid high school, after we'd moved to Launceston.....and into the domain of a new French teacher. I even waded through two years of French in my HSC, and by default ended up with the French Prize in Grade 12.....regardless of the fact that afterwards, I still struggled to string a coherent sentence together. Then there was a time, during my early adulthood, when I was flatting in Sydney and had a fabulous friend who's French was at the same veggie level as my own....yet don't think that that stopped us having incredibly animated conversations, in whatever it was that we were speaking.....usually at the pub. It used to drive my male flatmates wild.

And now here we are and I'm working on my French, yet again. At least this time I'm spared having to use the gynaecological and obstetric vocabulary that I learned while gestating and giving birth in French, last time we were here. Mercifully, it's a different level of chat I'm having this time around....there is no chance I'm going to find myself being told to take my knickers off.

My main problem with the French language is, that I have just enough to see me happily ensconced in a conversation, yet once it's someone else's turn to participate, I turn into a teapot. And then, at this late stage, tongue tied, I play the ' suis très désolé, mais je suis Australienne et je ne parle pas beaucoup de Français' card.....but of course it's not the equivalent of 'get out of jail free', as it's not generally accepted and by this stage I've hoodwinked them into making it this far......surely, there must be more there....somewhere. Inevitably there isn't.

This morning, when I dropped the children at school, I was hoping against hope that my French would miraculously work. Because I needed to ask the lady in the office about such important issues as child care options for the baby. You can imagine how much was resting on this conversation. Anyway, she said that because our baby was only two and still wearing a nappy, she can't go to the Ecole Maternelle. I think that she then went on to say, that there was a lady in the village who does family daycare at her house and that she would ask this lady to give me a call to organise it all. It's nearly 3.30pm and the phone still hasn't rung. Oh no....where's the dictionary.



  1. Courage courage as they would say.

    I am finding this all very riveting stuff. But I really wouldn't worry about the children. I went to an english speaking international school in Korea and even up to the age of 12, a completely non english speaking German or Japanese would be coherent and fully functioning after a few months. Mind you I did notice the adaptability dropped at about Grade 7. At that stage, all the newbies would have to do an adapted english language format.

    But it seems you have only just got there and it takes a while for the brain to adjust and you won't even be thinking twice when you speak French again. Good luck in any case!

  2. So true about the adaptability dropping by about Grade was too late for me! My husband was slack at school and had absolutely no French yet miraculously the Michel Tomas app on his iPhone got him across the was a start....funnily enough he was telling me about chatting with a group of French middle aged cyclists on his ride today about, of all things, shaving your legs! Already I'm proud/ashamed to admit that my 11 year old daughter's French is now on par with took me years and her 8 months submersion in 2010 and three weeks so far this year! Rx

  3. I find this so intriguing, Romy. After having lived in Germany for a year, I think immersion is the only way to do it. It's incredibly daunting but brings the rewards the quickest. Wait for the morning you wake up, realising you've dreamt in French! Champagne pour le petit dejeuner, naturellement!


I LOVE hearing your thoughts! Rx