In a country where foreign language skills aren’t exactly abundant, I’ve always considered myself a reasonably competent French speaker. I took to it straight away at school and have tried to keep my hand in with the odd evening class.
I’ve particularly enjoyed helping (she may not agree with my choice of word here) my daughter with her French school work, even suggesting at times that her teacher must have got it wrong, so confident am I of my own linguistic abilities. Somehow I don’t think she shares my confidence.
So when we arranged a short holiday to Euro Disney, I thought it would be a great opportunity to prove to her, and myself, that I still had it in me, so to parler. Of course, opportunities to speak the native lingo were few and far between as even the French, as protective and proud as they are about their language, quickly revert to English when they spot a stupid Englishman. My best chance came when I was sitting by myself as the family were busy terrorising themselves on one of the rides. A big guy in some sort of costume, which I think was a pirate, approached me and, to my surprise, asked “Comment allez-vous?’. Here it was, my big chance to speak the beautiful language, to converse in the native tongue and show that we’re not all beer-swilling idiots. Confidently I replied “Richard” in my best French accent. As I waited for his response he backed away, muttering under his breath.
By the time the family arrived back, I had realised my mistake and despite my better judgement, owned up to having answered a polite “How are you?” by giving him my name. :-0
Still, this was a momentary lapse. I could still fall back on reassuring my daughter by telling her, again, that I once got 99% in an end of year French test. At least, that was until she got 100%.